Planning


   Very productive day had so far! Not only did I get a ton of packing done (1 of two check in bags packed) but I bused into town to get price checks on IPod charger (I’ve been bumming off friends for last two months), international converter and purchased gifts for the director & supervisor at my new school. For the director I picked up 12 oz. of SBC’s (Seattle’s Best Coffee) medium roast (#3) and for my supervisor I dropped by Safeway and snagged some Boehms chocolates. My mother was a chocolatier about 26 years ago and I’ve known Bernard the Swiss owner since I was a baby so it felt like the perfect gift since on of my soon-to-be coworkers informed me that my supervisor enjoys chocolates.

   I said I would fill in a little more detail on mother’s day. My brother and I collaborated for making Mom dinner. I picked up some fresh spinach linguine noodles at Pasta Co. along with some produce (sugar snap peas were decadently fresh) and mozzarella balls. He dropped by Pike Place Market and snagged some scallops, sushi-grade Ahi tuna and Manilla clams. He made a scallop clam linguine with a vegetable reduction and I made a veggie lemon alfredo linguine with oregano and basil. We also whipped up a fresh romaine salad with the mozzarella balls, seared tuna encrusted with sesame seed, some crusty garlic baguette and last but not least a spicy ahi ceviche. All in all it was a hit and Mom was quite pleased with our culinary efforts to please. She also dug the bouquet of Sunflowers I snagged from Metropolitan Market.

   Heard from my recruiter, my director is going to pick me up at the airport next Tuesday and take me to see the school and then my new apartment. This is great because there was a possibility that I would be spending the first couple of weeks in a love motel while waiting for an apartment. All of the foreign teachers live in the same apartment building, I can’t wait to meet them, the rest of the staff and my future students. On the flip side of this I’m getting boggled at trying to decide how to spend my last days in the US of A. Tomorrow I’m meeting with my little bro and good friend and roommate from Bellingham post-college days to see Thor (stoked to rock my Icelandic heritage pride, VALHALLA!) and then have dinner with my friend and his girlfriend who has been a great amiga for many years. I cruise back out to the booneys to watch my little sisters while my parents meet up with the grandparents to offload garden supplies (they’ve bought quite a few racks of flowers in the last week) and celebrate my grandmother’s birthday with dinner. Saturday is the real tricky one, I’ve been invited to go see one last Sounder’s game (against our new rival the Portland Timbers), go to a birthday BBQ kegger at the high-school homies casa near my folks or make it to one last show (Ghostland Observatory who totally rocked it last time I saw them at Sasquatch Fest). So many great choices with so little time, but there are far worse dilemmas in life.

Oh yeah, my team totally dominated at Trivia Night this Monday winning with 34 points (2nd had 29) out of 7 teams. Sweet, sweet victory!

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   Today I started writing the monologue for the video they will be showing at the child bereavement camp I volunteer at every summer. It will just be a short 2-3 minute video saying hello to the kids, wishing them well, letting them know how much they mean to me and explaining why I can’t be there. In addition to this I wrote and sent off letters to a few of the teenage boys I usually do more of the one-on-one counseling with explaining how much I regret not being able to be there this year and why this year abroad is so important for me. I really hope they understand, they’re a great group and deserve a few breaks in what has been a life with quite a few tough obstacles to overcome.

    The camp is located at Seabeck, WA and the program that oversees it is known as WICS (Widowed Information Consultant Services) and our specific program Wings is a 3 day session in which kids ranging from kindergartener to teen can all come together with their peers, enjoy group games, hangout at the campfire and talk about the death of a parent or sibling with each other or one of the certified counselors without fear of judgement.

   Unlike many non-profit programs that do more support groups for just the widower, WICS focuses on how to help the family unit as a whole gain some coping skills to deal with the loss a family member. I’ve been one of the few certified youth counselors and have also been the go to speech guy. As my co-facilitator ( the only other counselor with certifications) puts it: I do the big speeches like closing and she tries to take pictures and not cry too much. She’s easily one of the biggest sweethearts I know. The amount of pride I feel in my little brother for stepping up to help out in my absence can’t be expressed in words, this is not a subject that has been easy for him (in truth I feel it is a subject that is not easy for anyone). I’m blessed to have a bro with such a big heart.

   My mother died of AML leukemia at the age of thirty. This camp means a lot to me. Not only was it the same one I attended when I was a little squirt and trying to get by in a world were most other little kids couldn’t even accept the death of parent (tykes have some admirable internal self-defense mechanisms) but this is where I had a lot of the formative moments that put me on the path not only be able to accept the fact that I lost a parent at an early age, but to see the unique perspective it puts me in and some of the strengths as a person associated with that. When you can find the silver lining of any tragic event you have gone along ways towards dealing with that event. Cherishing each moment on this world and trying to make the most of it are hard-earned victories. These experiences also were strong precursors in wanting to make a career out of helping out kids and teens who are going through the journey of grief. Seabeck was the first time where I was a co-speaker with my father for some of the grief seminars on helping out parent’s raising a teenager without the support of a spouse. My father’s advice on impromptu speech creation and drawing inspiration from the heart have given my some of my most powerful tools as an orator.

   The memories I have from my time here have shown me much about the power of the human spirit. From Dr. Bob the Psych PhD who used to let us kids talk to his ventriloquist dummy if they didn’t feel comfortable opening up to an “old fart with glasses” (his words not mine, haha) and put us at ease with a multitude of magic tricks to the charismatic young counselor in his mid-twenties who had lost his own father as a child in the line of duty as a police officer. Many of my earliest role models were encountered. I discovered what Judaism was when my good friend at camp declined on bacon at the cafeteria at breakfast. All in all every time I set foot on the small camp property out on the Olympic Peninsula by Hood’s Canal I’m awash in a wave of powerful memories. Good juju to say the least.

   Since the camp is in June and I leave for Seoul in May this will be the first time in many years I will be unable to attend. While this causes some emotional pain and regret I know that it is for the best in the long-term. As time goes on and the group of teens and children we work with grow more and more diverse it has become apparent to me that to really make a difference in this field I need to be able to understand how grief is expressed in other cultures and just how values differ from culture to culture.

   All of us express the sensation of loss and longing for the presence of a love one in different ways due to our age, sex, family setup, geographical location and a multitude of other factors. We all also go through many different stages on the long and sometimes taxing journey of grief. If I am to be a sherpa to so many of these climbers making such a difficult ascent of the peak of grief I need to become a world citizen. I have lived in a fairly small and geocentric locale all my life and it would be easy for this to become an Achille’s heel towards my career goals of helping to reinvent the bereavement field.

  To counteract the feeling of regret at not being able to be at Seabeck this year I decided to be proactive and start researching opportunities in South Korea to exercise my field in some capacity. While initially having some difficulties in discovering potential avenues the other day I struck gold (picture me pumping fist in air with loud “Eureka!” haha). I wrote in to one of my favorite expat blogs in SoKo (ChrisinSouthKorea.com) and was delighted at his in-depth and well thought out response.

  I’m in the process of contacting the non-profit HOPE so that I can be one of their volunteer teacher’s during the off-time from my Hagwon (name of a private English school). Working at orphanages near my home in Seoul will be a great way to not only further my ability to accomplish further enrichment in this field but hopefully to ease the pain of homesickness and to show the world that we Americans put an emphasis on the enrichment of all human beings regardless of race or geographical location. Everyone deserves a chance to make something of themselves. If all goes well I can do much to fight the negative stereotypes of Americans abroad as self-centered and closed-minded. I cannot wait to start my adventure and eagerly await overcoming the trials and tribulations awaiting my in my soon to be home far from home.

  So I have been woefully inept in the last two weeks at updating my blog. House-sitting, going to shows and first Spring BBQ’s have been great distraction! As is typical in this beautiful Ecotopia I live in (Pacific Northwest) the sun has fled and rain is falling.We natives learn not to complain though, we wouldn’t have all the trees and verdant hills without the precipitation. My amiga Marcela always says blogging is easier in the winter, even though it’s not snowflakes falling I can see some merit in her argument.

  This second half of Compact Prepack deals with a more data driven side of my preparations for getting the heck out of Dodge. I’ve been making lists of what music I need to load onto my Ipod and what shows I need to burn onto DVD (Arrested Development, Pete and Pete, Portlandia and Archer at top of list) to take with me. Figure these will be great time killers while waiting for first paycheck and also keep any potential homesickness at bay. Plus in tracking down which friends will have what genres I can swoop from I’m killing two birds with one stone.

    In order to get all my freshest of dancehall and reggae needs I get to go visit Chuck Blendah out in the San Juan Islands. For blues scholars and other Seattle hip-hop I need to trek up to Snohomish County to visit Maximus then go even further up to Bellingham (right next to Canadian border) to visit Kevmeister at the lake house and download his indie and electronica. My hardcore and metal needs will be the easiest to get to in Capitol Hill at the Metalshop amigos pad, but since they are the Kings of Metal on the Seattle airwaves their library will be the hardest musical labyrinth to navigate. Props Kevin and Ian, I look forward to being on the show at least one more Saturday night!

 I love being a representative of the many native eclectic and epic music scenes/bands and can’t wait to show others what our city has to offer besides the often associated grunge scene. On that note here is one of the paragons of Seattle singer/songwriter savagery, Mr. Rocky Votalato. I’ve been a huge fan of his old band Waxwing and his performance in the indie film Edge of Quarrel (Hardcore vs. Metal take on Romeo and Juliet set in my homecity) was definite highlight of cinema back in my High School days. He finished his tour here the other day and while this isn’t the vein of music I usually tap, his vocal chords take me back to golden days of entering the scene and escaping the suburbs for one night for a cultural breath of fresh air.

Outstanding!

   Phew, after numerous time spent anxiously awaiting for documents to come back, umpteen runs to FedEx (like I would use UPS after 5 years working for Brown, two of which were a waste of life in hindsight…) I’ve finally finished all the bureacratic paperwork towards going to Korea. Tomorrow I’m sending all my documents to Seoul, one quick interview with the Seattle Korean consulate and then I receive my plane tickets from my Hagwon (private school). What started as an idea kicked around last fall has finally materialized from dream to soon to be reality. Now the next true battle begins…

What to Pack?

   I’ve spent numerous hours over the past two weeks scouring blogs and forums to ascertain what I really require, and what I can easily get upon my arrival. Or just live without until my first paycheck. I know that a pillow and cotton sheets are must have. Based on my stature probably want to bring most of my shoes. Early boredom making due with limited initial budget will necessitate bringing a plethora of different novels and magazines. That being said most of this has been covered from the get-go earlier this year. The real chin-stroking deep pondering has revolved around one crucial theme…Grub!

  I’m no uber-foodie but anybody who knows me well knows how much I love culinary pursuits. Numerous family feasts in college featuring cuisine based on Thai, Italian, Americana, Nuevo Irish and Indian food have only cultivated my skill in the kitchen. Pops worked as a cook in some of the schwankier restaurants up in Bellingham during his time at Western Washington University and this early upbringing only served to instill a real appreciation for decadent homecooked meals for me from an early age.

MMmmm, soy deliciousness!

   Add to this my specific diet (no red meat for last 11 years and no poultry for nigh on 10) and the real gratification I’ve gained from the endearing feeling of putting TLC into a meal for a significant other on a special occasion or the camaraderie formed by collaborating with other like-minded friends for an epic gastroheavy evening. I have to say I’m proud amateur cook (no pro in the making like my little bro who only gets more proficient in the restaurant industry with each passing day) who will pursue this hobby for the rest of my life. 

   Hence my trepidation concerning this with the departure date looming on the calendar horizon… As I said before I won’t have a real flexible budget when I first arrive. Did I mention Korean cuisine is filled with veggies but still really proud of it’s BBQ and meaty broths (think Kalbi ribs and “hangover soup”) and doesn’t even really consider poultry to be meat? Couple this with an inability to read the menu at numerous restaurants or even the products at the grocery store. Well, I love challenges and this is going to be one of the first ones I tackle head-on with the passion of an ex-rugby player turned cuisine fan. I’m seeing a lot of tofu dishes mixed with curry powder/taco seasonings. Really can’t wait to see what new yogurt smoothies I’m going to concoct with the multitude of different fruit options at the local markets and fruit trucks. On the flip side I do see many, many dishes of brown rice, kimchee and mung beans in the near future.

   I already kinda see why my school was a little disappointed that I won’t be experiencing the full Korean culture without succumbing to a meat-friendly diet. My old college flatmate Paul Suh (soon to be initial tour guide due to past friendship and his ability to speak fluent Korean) is ethnic Korean and has lived back in his mother country for the past three years. He has proudly declared on more than one occasion “I eat like a King over here man!” and asks me every other time we correspond whether I’m sure I don’t want to take a small hiatus for the duration of the trip from my mammal friendly diet. Haha, dig the love man, but not in my cards!

   I’ve dealt with overcoming obstacles to keep to the diet I want to obtain just hope I’m not overusing that Korean Costco card too much. Now back to the list. Hmmm, dill’s gotta be on there, hollandaise sauce and vegetarian gravy and baco bits. Some good cheese, say manchego and feta would go great with a small amount of imported olives. Oh jeez, wish I knew how many bags I can check in. That comes next week, not gonna delay the gastrobrainstorm session though….