Angell, the Ugly Caterpillar

 

Colombia’s changed me.

Physically, I haven’t lost or gained weight…or so I think.

However, my hair has grown a lot, like the hair on my head and face. Yes, my face. I broke my room mirror twice (talk about bad luck) and don’t really know what I truly look like. But when I do come across a mirror and good lighting, I discover some interesting things on my face. I think I may be growing some peach fuzz.

It must be the water.

 

But, I will be dramatic to say that in addition to my hairs, my soul has changed.

There are some rewarding experiences as a PCV, such as students behaving well, finally mastering the system of living and surviving in a new environment, students appreciating you through actions, getting things checked off the to-do list, and much more. However, being a PCV also brings tsunami waves of emotional break-downs, sadness, and craziness, and the goal is to maintain your calmness, coolness, and collectedness through it all.

So with that said…

My feelings to empathize and understand are out of the roof. Sad movies – I can’t watch them because I feel the impact for days.

Still not that patient, but I am proud to say my patience scale with technology has improved tremendously. Instead of giving up, I perservere with the obstacles technology throws at me. With good internet signal, a 2 to 3 prong plug converter, extension cord, prayers and patience, one can do anything with a projector with no audio, computer, and a cellphone.

My sensitivity and irritability levels are at peak at times.

My disagreement with other people are intense to the point I cannot sleep due to rage or anxiety.

 

I am an emotional being, but now, I am an emotional mess.

 

 

Then, God comes through with advice sent through friends and I receive an article by Mark Manson from Helena.

The last three paragraphs include the golden nugget that I needed.

“You may view the world through family values, but most people do not. You may view the world through the metric of attractiveness, but most people do not. You may view the world through the metric of freedom and worldliness, but most people do not. You may view the world through the positivity and friendliness, but most people do not.

And that’s simply part of being human. Accepting that others measure themselves and the world differently than you do is one of the most important steps to consciously choosing the right relationships for yourself. It’s necessary for developing strong boundaries and deciding who you want to be a part of your life and who you do not. You may not accept a person’s ideas or behaviors.

But you must accept that you cannot change a person’s values for them. Just as we must choose our own measurement by ourselves and for ourselves. They must do it by themselves and for themselves.”

“You may not accept a person’s ideas or behaviors. But you must accept that you cannot change a person’s values for them.”

 

This part makes me question…why am I mentally strangling others to abide by my standards or way I see things? Why cannot I accept them for them? Why can’t I let go?

 

WHY?

 

Because struggle makes my feelings 10x more intense.

Because struggle makes my feelings more easily hurt and long-lasting.

Because struggle makes me prone to emotional break-downs.

IT’S BECAUSE I CARE SO D### MUCH.

IT’S ALSO BECAUSE I WANT TO BE TREATED THE WAY I TREAT OTHERS!

I always try to give a benefit of a doubt to people. Do they do that to me?

Why, oh, why, VivaColombia airlines representative must you be so rude? I’ve been in customer service positions, too, and I know how that is because some people make you want to punch them in the face! But, I am being nice to you! You aren’t being so nice to me right now!!!! Now, YOU are driving ME crazy!!!!!!

 

It’s always a battle between fighting for my thoughts or letting go.

And I always fall victim to holding onto my hurt and making someone accountable for it.

Which is why sometimes I wake up at freakin 2 am talking to myself back to sleep.

Colombia has taught me to be more caring, empathetic, and humbler. However, she’s made me a little  crazier and a more annoyed person.

So, in a nutshell, my mental state is going through puberty. Voice cracks, body changes, hormone imbalances, the works.

If I make it through my two year service, I hope to make it through this transformation successfully and come back to the U.S. with a healthier and more positive perspective of people, abundance of acceptance, and the freedom to let go…because I love sleep without interruptions.

I am an ugly caterpillar right now waiting to be a sexy, beautiful butterfly.

So in the meantime, please tell me I am pretty even with my peach fuzz.

 

Sources:

Caterpillar photo

Mark Manson Article, “How We Judge Others is How we Judge Ourselves”

 

TOLERANCE

You know you’re in the Peace Corps when you freely discuss, elaborate, and describe explosive diarrhea symptoms with your volunteer peers without any ounce of shame.

We all got hit with the D-bug in July.

Without giving you the details here has been my experience in a mathematical formula:

No toilet seats + squatting + diarrhea = extremely firm thunder thighs acquired

 

Hola amigos y familia,

 

Thank you shout out to…

 

  1. Carrie, my PC volunteer friend who lent her movie library to all of us. We are forever grateful. I did not know how behind the times I was with movie watching.
  2. Galen, my PC volunteer site mate and buddy who keeps me sane. We got lost going to our training in Turipana, ate pity party ice cream together to re-strategize and think clearly, got back up on our feet, and got to our point of destination in one piece.
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This is Galen and me after finding the right bus to get to Turipana. We both closed our eyes on accident. I think.

3. Helena, my PC volunteer friend, who checks in on me regularly, who laughs so hard about so many things with me, and truly is a gem of a person.

4. Carmen, my Spanish teacher, who is just on the same page as me all the time.

5. My parents back in Texas. Thank you for your love and support.

 

After six months of being in Colombia, it was time for our IN-SERVICE TRAINING in Turipana, Colombia. This was a check-in point with our Peace Corps colleagues, staff, and Colombian counterparts.

The first three days included trainings and events with our counterparts. It was an opportunity to meet other volunteers’ counterparts, learn of their accomplishments, learn new methodologies, and basically, fire a rod in our counterparts’ buttocks to get them motivated when they returned back to school.

Here are my cute counterparts:

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Alicia from Buritaca and Giovanni from Perico Aguao.

 

Giovanni and Alicia are my teammates and I am forever grateful for their genuine compassion for their jobs, cooperativeness to work with me, and friendship with a gringa.

The last three days was for just us volunteers. We shared our struggles and achievements and I learned that we were all in this same boat with the same frustrations but we just were too afraid to be vulnerable and admit. However, we all cracked a little and when person A would say, “I have had difficulty with ABC,” person B would nod furiously in agreement. I also learned how much I missed air conditioning, but also realized how easily I got cold and how I was a master of turning it on and off throughout the night. How something I yearn for like AC could not be fully enjoyed due to adaptation of this fiery heat of a weather…

Additionally in Turipana, we surprised our fellow PC volunteer friend, Jackie, and her new-born grandson. 10 pound baby! We also learned how to document our progresses and accomplishments in the Volunteer Record Form (VRF), which is tedious, but very necessary to record our work here in Colombia.

I felt that my volunteer colleagues and I got closer during our Turipana training. Especially when one-by-one we all fell victim to diarrhea, headache, and vomiting afterwards. Natalie, my PC volunteer friend, calls it the curse of Turipana.

 

DRASTIC MOOD CHANGE. WARNING SAD POINT WARNING!

 

On August 19, 2016, I almost cried while reading out loud in English a story about Ashley and her career aspirations. I was asked to read out loud to articulate proper English pronunciation of a story far above the English skill level for the students. Some days, work as a PC volunteer makes you want to cry because you realize you can’t change the world, you are frustrated, you are tired, or you feel helpless. I was all of the above that day.

In my classes, there is room for improvement such as breaking down material so your students understand and reviewing that material for reinforcement. Unfortunately, as an outsider, I cannot just come in and enforce my own principles or ways of running things just like trying to put a box in a circle. I cannot just do that that because it’s not my classroom and I am solely here to lend a hand. This is a taste of being a diplomat trying to strengthen relations and improve policy through tact, patience, and tolerance. But in my case, I am trying to instill interest in English and support bilingualism through improved teaching methodologies.

I show all these cool pictures of sea turtles and exotic scenery and yes, Colombia, she is beautiful, and I show her off, but life as a PC volunteer is not all rainbows and bluebonnets.

I changed my life 360 degrees. I moved from Texas to Colombia. I spoke English a 100% of the time to now speaking Spanish. I ate all kinds of diverse foods and all the foods I wanted in the States to now eating solely Colombian food. I used to live on my own in my own apartment to now living with a host family. I lived in the popping city of Austin, Texas, to now living in a rural village of 200-300 people.

It is hard.

So after this period of sadness, I went through this phase of “WTF AM I DOING HERE!!?!?!?!?!??!”

I couldn’t sleep one night due to thoughts of “What the heck am I doing here? Am I really doing something useful???” and randomly watched 7 Years in Tibet. I pretended I was Heinrich Harrer in Tibet (played by Brad Pitt) but I am in a movie called, 2 Years in Colombia. There was a part where Henrich says he was regrettable as having been “intolerant as the Chinese” referencing to when the Chinese at the time were invading Tibet in 1950. That part struck me weirdly. It made me question…Am I intolerant? Is it because of my intolerance that I feel like my purpose here is pointless?

Then, my counterpart Alicia invited me to a place up in the mountains in a village called, San Rafael. She told me how she could empathize with me as she noted that I must be struggling to understand Colombia. The coast of Colombia is different. The lifestyle and mentality are different. Alicia comes from the interior, the capital of Colombia, Bogota, and it’s completely different there, too: the lifestyle and mentality. So, she feels me. She added that she has a Master’s in Tolerance and I am still in school to obtain that kind of degree. The word tolerance has been circling around me lately and visiting San Rafael made me experience some kind of ENLIGHTENMENT. It was a place where I closed my mouth and listened to nature for the first time. It was a place where I shut off my talkative brain. We are always thinking and our minds are so loud, and I am happy to say that San Rafael shut me up.

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San Rafael.
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La Piscinita in San Rafael. The depth was unknown and I dare not try to reach the bottom.

 

So, after my ENLIGHTENMENT, I jotted down some notes to be wise as the Dalai Lama and to share with you. These tips are applicable to everyone and anyone. Maybe except 6 if you are living in a developed world…

TIPS TO SURVIVE ANGELL KIM STYLE:

  1. When you are sad, write a grocery list, then categorize that list by aisles, then re-write it in a colored marker. Finalize it with a sticker.
  2. Bring a sweat towel at all times. I enjoy whipping that out when there is a waterfall on my face.
  3. Pack snacks every time. The hangry-ness of Angell Kim is even scarier here. Friends, BEWARE!
  4. When you are craving Korean food, improvise and go to a Chinese restaurant in the city.
  5. When you can’t sleep, watch movies until you’re sleepy, but beware, you may suffer lack of sleep the next day, but try to solve today’s problems today and tomorrow’s problems tomorrow.
  6. Back-up charge everything because the power will go out sometime.
  7. Have a back-up emergency cash fund in a drawer. The nearest ATM machine is in the city and the realization of a back-up emergency cash fund when you are in panic poverty mode, makes you get on your knees and pray Thank you God for His back-up support.
  8. Helping to change and improve something takes time. Remember, not everyone’s buttocks are on fire like mine. So, you have to dim your own butt fire to be in sync with the other butt fires. However, you can’t be complacent, don’t just trot along with the same butt fire level and speed forever. You have to still maintain rigor and passion to help, improve, and focus on your goal(s). This is an art I have yet to master. Unfortunately right now, my butt’s been really burnt out and I need to try to dim the fire.
  9. Write and log all accomplishments and activities that you’ve done in your life, in your job, in your Peace Corps Volunteer service. The PC Volunteer Report Form  will sure teach you a lesson. The VRF is like the Matryoshka doll or Russian doll. When you open one doll, there’s another mini one, and when you open that one, there is another one. The VRF has many buttons with many other mini buttons. This advice is pretty applicable for the working man and woman for any career. Keep track of your awesomeness. It will come in handy.doll.jpg
  10. For the OCD American, carry on hand soap is amazing or…a bar of soap. Different form, but same ability to give you clean hands.
  11. Cut your nails so you don’t collect scum under them or scratch your mosquito bites to death.
  12. TO BE CONTINUED…

Things that I realized that make me OH SO HAPPY and helped me get back to my healthy level of happiness:

  1. Running water, showers, and my Korean bath scrub. I am so filthy here and that scrub thing makes me feel 100% clean.
  2. Clean clothes and clean plentiful underwear.
  3. When someone can relate to me.
  4. The screaming children who yell, “llego la luz!! – the lights are back!” and my fan slowly recovers back from its slumber.
  5. The books my English high school teacher, Wendi, had sent me.

 

So, I didn’t really answer the question of why I am truly here, but I am not here for no purpose, that is for sure.

I know for a fact that I am here to help. I am here to help myself to be able to help others. I am here for a new learning experience. I am here to be a better person. I am here to learn if I fall down 8 times, I know how to get back up 9 times. I am here to become more tolerant.

I think we all are here on this Earth to be more of a kinder person, but I am only a 20-something year old who’s just hit a bumpy road on the road called LIFE.

So, we keep trekking…

 

TO END ON A GOOD NOTE WITH A SHOUT OUT FULL OF LOVE:

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Made seaweed soup (미역국) a thousand miles away for my momma Kim’s 50th birthday. I miss you very much. It is Korean tradition to make seaweed soup to celebrate one’s birthday.
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Alicia and my 4th grade class. These kids are so rowdy, but I love them.

 

 

Thank you for reading the highs and lows of Angell Kim.

 

*Google credit to 7 Years in Tibet featured photo and Russian doll photos

23

Welcome to the Michael Jordan years.

These are 23 things lessons I’d like to share with this world:

1. I saw this on Tumblr and it is very true: “Your fear of looking stupid will hold you back.” So, I guess I may look stupid, but hey- I am too busy grinding away, getting stuff done, and being a boss.

2. CrossFit will test you. It will test your mental capabilities to your very core and it will bring you discomfort. But once you complete the WOD, you’re just like…I did it. It will build your mental strength, tolerance, and this improved mindset will transfer to your daily personal life as well. CrossFit teaches you that you will overcome. It will also make those traps and biceps defined as hell. I’ll show you later.

3. Build strong relations with friends and people you meet and be kind to them. Good karma is planted that way.

4. You are tired from work, school, balancing both, working 2/3 jobs, etc, but remember, people work hard every day. Knowing that across the world, people are working very hard to survive, to help their children, to feed their family, reassures you that you can so do it. You can.

5. Read a Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralick. One of my best mentors gave this book to me and it has truly lifted me up when I felt that my life was depressing or when I lacked motivation. Every one goes through a roadblock in life. Appreciating what you have and others will give you perspective. Nothing horrible lasts forever.

6. Don’t act so pompous, because God will humble you.

7. People age, but we can either be an old fart or be a kid at heart. I got a perm and I finally dress up for work just so I could look older, but you know…I still reference SpongeBob and make lots of animated noises when I talk. It keeps me young and pleasant to be around. Just ask my colleagues.

8. Thanking people surprises them. People just aren’t thanked enough. Thank your friends for texting you when they check in to see how you’re doing. Thank God. Pat yourself on the butt and thank yourself for being so awesome.

9. Life is good working with people who are kind, helpful, and pleasant. Be that kind of person, too.

10. Do laundry on Friday evenings before going out. That way, you don’t have to worry about it on Sunday evening or freak out knowing you have very limited articles of clothing like underwear. A little “struggle” now is like a big reward later.

11. Incorporate yoga or deep stretching before rigorous activities or working out. Your body at 21 changes at 22. Seriously.

12. Have an aggressive attitude when living life. Work, study, work out, do it all aggressively. It helps you beat the wimp out of you when a challenge arises.

13. Stop texting and eating. If you look around at a restaurant, you will see 90% of the people texting and eating. I saw a mom and son eating together and they were just texting while eating. I used to do this when I was with my siblings at home. We’d all just be glued to our little screens. Can we bring back the sexy in one-on-one talking?

14. You can’t always eat what you want. Practicing good eating habits now will be easier when you get older. When I was on the subway in Korea, an old grandpa had told me that I should not eat everything I wanted. At that cherubic 19 years of life, I was like, “Who is this man? Whatever, YOLO, I eat whatever and whenever I want!!!!” However, now as I observe the eating habits of others around me and the many diseases that come with poor eating habits, following that veggie life is a must.

15. Don’t look at your work emails when you are on paid time off (PTO) or vacation. Just spare yourself.

16. Reconcile and apologize if you have hurt someone or there was a misunderstanding. However, if the other individual will not return the open mindedness, close that door, let it go, and make new friends and relations.

17. If you reach out to someone and do not hear from them, do not be quick to judge thinking that they are ignoring you. Life can be pretty hectic so try to understand.

18. When you’re at the gym, don’t carry your phone. The gym is my fortress to not think about anything, but the sweat coming down my face. It’s the one time when I do not care about the texts, calls, or emails.

19. Call your grandparents. They love the crap out of you and get so happy when you take the time to ask how they are. For goodness sake, without them and the struggles they experienced to be alive during all the wars, history, you would not be alive.

20. Just go out and enjoy outings. You can sleep when you die.

21. Shop at thrift stores. You can seriously get 10 articles of clothes for around $20. Whereas the mall life, one shirt is $20. Be smart and spend your hard-earned money on a vacation; that is something you cannot get at a thrift store.

22. Stop saying you’re busy. Everyone and their moms are busy. Saying that makes you sound like you’re so important, because you’re not the only one important. Make time for things important to you.

23. Care about people. This world is pretty mean, and not enough love, apologies, or gratitude is shared among us.

Happy birthday to me.