Hi there friends and family. Thank you for patiently awaiting my next blog post. The past couple weeks have been just a bit different and busy, but I’ll try and cover all of that in this post.
So what has happened in the short form? I arrived with over 60 other Young Adult Volunteers in Newark, New Jersey on August 22nd and began (dis)Orientation. I made lots of friends who were going to all different sites to serve Christ all over the world. On August 29th, we all went our separate ways and began our travels to our unique placements. My team arrived in Seoul and rode on a bus to Daejeon in the late evening of August 30th. We then began to experience all sorts of new and exciting foods, people, and surroundings.
That’s the chipper version of what has happened so far. The reality is a bit more complicated. This isn’t to say that what I wrote above is false. But what has transpired is so much more than can be summarized in a few flimsy sentences. I don’t mean to sound negative, but the fact is is that these past few weeks have changed my perspective permanently and I can’t hide in my world of privilege anymore. I don’t have the right or permission. There’s a responsibility now. But the thing is, it’s always been there and I just missed it.
All of the YAV’s jokingly refer to our Orientation now as DisOrientation because of how completely changed each of us have felt in some way or another. We spent a week all together basically being told that each of us had probably been living with some sort of privilege our entire lives and to embrace the discomfort that comes with it. The hardest and worst part of this was that everyone who spoke to us was not wrong.
There have certainly been instances where I have been discriminated against or where jokes have been made about some part of my identity, but I am someone who has been exceedingly fortunate as a white, middle-class American. I was not the only one in the room either who had the revelation that life was not hard for me by most, if any, standards. None of us are excused from our privilege and our responsibility to set aside our privilege as often as we can if it is for the benefit of those who are have nots.
One clarification on that though that was made often and highly appropriately: as a person of privilege, you should speak out against injustice and inequality, but only to make a space for those who can’t speak to speak. Let me say it again: having privilege does not give you the right to speak for those who are marginalized. As privileged people, we cannot possibly know what it looks like and feels like to be on the outside looking in at the wealth and imbalance of life. It is important however to provide a courageous space for those who need to speak (i.e. when Ben gives Leslie a platform to speak about feminism in season 7 of Parks and Rec) (yes, this blog will be full of references, the title of this post is, if you hadn’t caught it yet!)
So what is the point of all this? Why did all of the YAV’s get told over and over again throughout the week that we were from a group of highly favored individuals? Because it’s the truth.
I’ve already seen some of what we were taught at DisOrientation coming into play here in Daejeon. In general if Koreans speak another language, it’s English (this also goes for signage, menus, you name it). A man on the train insisted that I sit down when a seat opened up despite the fact that the train was packed full of other people who might have needed it more. The Korean word for “USA” is 미국 (mi-guk, approximately), which means ‘beautiful’ in some translations. I have felt so uncomfortable in so many ways since touching down here in Korea that it’s almost indescribable (and those listed above are just to name a few). Without going through the week-long discomfort that was discussing my own advantages and privileges in this world, I never would have been made aware of how much I am given simply because of how I look or who I am. I am highly thankful that I went through Orientation in order to learn what I’ve missed in this world and how I could be a better steward of Christ in a world where I need to listen more and talk less.
It may have been highly uncomfortable but I am glad that I am not allowed to pretend I am naive anymore. I am glad that I have been told that I am responsible for how I carry my privilege in our world and that I always was. I am glad that we were taught to live into the discomfort and take it at face value and with the idea that we are not as important as we are in our own heads.
There are other moments from this introduction into the next year of my life that I’d like to share as well. But I do not want these to take away from the lessons I’ve stated above that I have learned!!!
At Orientation, I met so many other lovely YAV’s and would love to give them shout-outs briefly. First, I was enormously blessed with a beautiful, kind, and generous roommate for the week named Elizabeth Reid who helped me get through the week and to whom I will always be grateful for her insights! I also had a fantastic small group led by YAVAlum Kaley. You guys taught me a lot about who I am outside of my immediate group of friends and truly encouraged me to live into my YAV year and grow! Thank you for being so understanding and concerned for me. I also have to extend a very grateful and special thanks to my group that performed with me at the talent show at the end of the week! A group of six other YAV’s and I performed “Alexander Hamilton” and that team is talented and wonderful beyond words (especially Laura Todd who stepped in and learned the song last minute so we would have enough people to perform it!)(there’s a video that may someday get posted to Facebook or on this blog so keep your eyes peeled!). I enjoyed every practice we had and can’t wait to get together again at the Transition retreat and jam out. I also just want to thank everyone who was there for me in some way or another that week and will name each of you because you made it possible for me to say sane and open up to you: our chaplain Alonzo, Elizabeth, Sarah, Ainsley, Rachel, Becca, Jillian, Kim, John, Ben, Zach, Mary, Akilah, Julia, Briana, Blake, Lydia, and Bridgette. Thank you.
I’ll write more about what is happening in Daejeon but right now I need to go! First day of Korean church and I am so excited! Stay golden, my lovelies!
“Head first into a political abyss!” -Thomas Jefferson, “What’d I Miss?”, Hamilton: An American Musical
(Wanted to post more quotes, but coming up empty!)