Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 12

It's a gorgeous day here in Seoul and one that I hope will continue to visit this climatically cursed peninsula throughout the year. The wife and I plan to hit the parks with full motor-scooting style this weekend.  I hope it holds out. The forecast says it should, but I've learned to ignore all weather forecasts. In college, my friends and I were always overly positive and optimistic about Spring Break weather. We would obsess over it for weeks before our departure date; checking local averages and regional weather. In the end though, it always ended up raining or being cold. It didn't matter too much back then. We weren't douchey Florida beach people anyways. We preferred paddling the southern swamps of the Carolinas. Location didn't matter either. As tight as we were, any locale would have been fine. Of course, Matthew has a problem with that.
"And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that!" -Matthew 5:47
I guess Mr. Perfect would prefer me to head to the beach and pursuade that crew to pack up and head to the gator-filled swamps. It's alright. I think it's safe to say that most of my college days held much more of a semblance to pagan life than Christian, so I guess we fit the description.

Last night I was chatting with my wife before we went to bed. She always says we don't talk enough. That's not true. She just says that when I'm tired and she's still wide awake.  She mentioned that she was starting to get really excited about our US relocation. I obviously agree. I've loved my time here, but have been looking forward to my repatriation for about four years. 
"I can't wait to start grad school, go camping, buy a house and travel." 
"Whoa! Can you repeat that?" I asked.
"Yeah. I can't wait to start school, buy a house and travel."
"No, no, no. You said 'camping'!"
She chuckled a bit and finally admitted that she was pumped about camping. Victory! I've been brainwashing her for years and am finally starting to see some headway. I'll start her out slow and in Korea. The animal diversity is much more scant over here, so that fear will be put on hold while she learns the ropes. 

Women are scared of all the wrong things when it comes to the outdoors and Korean women in particular seem to be totally misinformed about nature and outdoor life. I guess some might suggest that city life has ruined them and others could point to the fact that Korean children don't get much outdoor exploration time as children.

I wrote this a couple years ago:
[Korean] parents are trying to make their children well-prepared for a globalized world whether they know it or not. By doing so, they are taking one of the most precious things away from their children. The fun and silliness that was all of our childhoods was just an amazing time. We played, we swam, we climbed trees, we camped and we skidded our knees. We did kid things. School was never our focus. Fun was our focus. Life was our focus. Getting to know the world was our focus. 
As I speak, there are some kids playing in a patch of monkey grass right outside my window. One of them has a stick and is drawing in the dirt and the other is searching through the thicket for his very own utensil. They are smiling and laughing and having a great time. They don't know what life is like for children in other nations, nor do they care. Defining what should and shouldn't be a childhood is nearly impossible. Most people would agree that labor wouldn't fall under that category, but it certainly used to. Summer time in the US was filled with farm work and children certainly helped with that.

My wife and I often discuss our childhoods. I was a free-spirited American boy and she was a nerdy Korean girl, yet our worlds blended with relative ease. Sure, she doesn't have the diversity of memories that I have, but she was a happy child. Since I can't define what childhood should be (although most expat teachers foolishly believe they can), how about taking a look at what Catholics think.

My father hated his upbringing. He used to mention that a lot to me. Perhaps it was his honest opinion or maybe he was making sure I knew how good I had it, but I clearly remember the words "damn" and "alter boy" being used frequently. He was one of two children --a rather low number for a Catholic family. Childhood for him was tough and involved sheep farming, but from what I can tell, it wasn't that different from Catholic families of the 1950s and 60's. Catholics demand behavioral obedience, intellectual subordination, separate education and, of course, strict adherence to religious and familial sacraments and rituals. 

Sounds tough, but it doesn't seem too far off from most families or religions though. 1 Corinthians 13:11 says:
When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways.
Paul is highlighting the differences of being a child and an adult. Children display certain qualities and characteristics that are unique only to them. It's their immaturity that sets them apart from adults, but once we grow up we're expected to think and behave in a more "adult" manner. What if our society or culture is forcing kids to grow up too fast or, in many cases, too slow?

Korean children are exposed to the difficulties of life. They understand from a very young age that getting into good schools and excelling academically can lead to economic success and therefore "happiness". They are somewhat sheltered from the social-ills and pleasures of life though because those will only distract them from achievement in the classroom. American children, on the other hand, face an opposite dilemma. American parents want their children to have a fun and easy childhood before facing the realities of adulthood. It's a now-or-later scenario with both nations and both strategies tend to lead to perpetual and pervasive state of arrested development.

There's a balance out there and millions of parents seemed to have found it. I just hope that my wife and I will employ a method that values both the innocence of childhood and realities of adulthood.


  1. "Women are scared of all the wrong things when it comes to the outdoors"? I'm sorry, what now?

  2. I figured you'd pick up on that. I should have said that SOME women worry about the wrong things, i.e., bugs, animals and weather.

    To be fair, I could also say the men don't worry enough.

  3. I am mollified. (-; You should still say some men though, I've known some spectacular dandies, much more frightened of animals and weather than I have ever been!

  4. Interesting observations about childhood and growing up too fast or too slow. I have to disagree a bit on the American culture letting kids have fun and slowly grow into adults. Now that I'm a parent, I see (and feel the pressure of) just how fast the culture attempts to make our children grow up. Trey and I have had to be very intentional about keeping that pressure at an arm's distance. There's a great book by David Elkin...The Hurried Child that talks about this. I'll lend it to you when you come home! ;)