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What Might it be Like?

Seoul, South Korea

Saturday night was spent in the area next to Hongdae University in the western portion of Seoul. Known especially for its intense nightlife, the area is a magnet for young people seeking to escape from the stresses of daily life. The streets are replete with partygoers wandering from one bar to the next, filling the time in between by drinking soju from the bottle and searching for someone to share the night with. Unfortunately, with the excitement of the night, they oftentimes don't make time to dispense of their trash properly, and instead find it most convenient to simply discard their unwanted bottles and cans along the roads and alleyways. Obviously trash does not clean up itself, so the city has hired workers whose job it is to clean up after those whose messy habits created the need for the job in the first place.

While sitting on the side of the street, sipping on a bottle of soju ourselves, I watched a scene unfold that I most likely never forget. The events themselves were so simple, yet the ideas and questions behind what transpired seem more complex than I am able to unravel. A lady, whose appearance of age had been marred by the effects of no doubt a difficult life, was carrying out her job as the worker responsible for picking up the trash of others. While bending over to retrieve an empty bottle, a group of drunk men ran into her, pushing both her and her cart full of bottles over. The evidence of her hard work scattered across the street, and without even a backward glance, the group of men continued on their way, unabashed, unaware, and inconsiderate of the damage they had caused. Fellow observers along the street hastened to help her collect all of the waste, but many abandoned their effort as they realized the time requirement necessary to finish the job. Once it had all been collected, the woman continued down the predetermined path before her, down the road of continuity of a monotomous and unfulfilling post.

Sympathy is a word that I have come to rarely use, as oftentimes I become so wrapped up in the events of my own life that I am too busy to remain aware of the lack of equality around me. Yet, seeing this woman, I was moved to an extreme that I have not experienced in awhile. I was overcome with questions about her life circumstances, and even more so, desirous of an option that would have allowed me to help. Simultaneously, I was struck aware of the powerlessness that we as humans must face as we search for some manner in which we can evoke change in the world. This woman, whom I highly doubt has chosen her present job as the ideal of which she dreamed about as a little girl, has obviously gone into battle with life and lost. There might have been those along the way that have offered their hands to help but perhaps stopped short of what was needed. I myself was rooted to the side of the road with shame, unable to help her for fear of giving myself away. To her I was just another soju bottle, another number on the street that blended together with the rest of the party crowd. How could I have made her understand that I felt her pain more accutely than she could know? The realization of my inability to communicate with her how I felt left me stripped of my pride and painfully pensive.

She will never know the impact that she had on my night and the days to follow, but perhaps by giving her credit for a lesson learned, the unrewarding job that she must call her own can in fact be full of merit.

permalink written by  Rachel in Korea! on August 31, 2008 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: South Korea, 2008-2009
tagged Seoul, Hongdae and Thoughts

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24 hours...and counting!

Campbellsville, United States

it's honestly closer to 23 hours. but i've been printing out my itinerary... i'm still not fully packed, and wondering if it's all going to fit. i have one suitcase filled with medical supplies thanks to the generosity of many friends. THANK YOU

plans are to leave at 4am in the morning.
i'm so excited. i just hope i do well, adjust quickly, and learn fast. i'm real excited about the plane trip too. i love traveling!
it's important to me that i'm not traveling just to travel, just for the experience. i have a purpose. whether or not the world understands it is fine with me. honestly, i don't think i do a very good job of explaining it when people don't understand or don't agree. i suppose if i try to live it out maybe one day they'll realize the point. it really doesn't take going to africa to make the difference i want to make in the world. i'm not sure what entirely it takes honestly, but i think it takes being open...taking people in just as they are and accepting them. opening our home and our heart to those in need of rest and love. opening our checkbook to those in need. it doesn't have to start with a trip to africa or having complete strangers or all the homeless people in your city over for a meal...it doesn't even have to end that way. it sometimes starts with saying hi to the person next to you, being generous at a stop light, actually chatting with that grungy kid on the corner just to find out they're actually a person who's life circumstances have screwed them to poverty. making a difference in the world might be just spending ourselves for one moment in order to give another person a little break and realize their humanity. not as hard as it seems really...but then at times very challenging. ...it's just so easy to forget that
"the world that is satisfying to us is the same world that is utterly devastating to them." -r.m. brown
i never want to live away from that...
i see my sisters and my brothers and wonder how i would act if i heard they were born into circumstances i've heard of.... i would act rapidly and aggressively. i would sell everything i owned to extract them from the situation immediately. it could have been you or i, you know? i guess we've just been blessed...or cursed. sometimes i'm not sure. i suppose it depends on what we do with our blessings.

permalink written by  theresa on October 14, 2009 from Campbellsville, United States
from the travel blog: to africa
tagged Thoughts, Anticipation and Hope

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