Saturday, March 23, 2013

One Year Later

In books and movies, often times the story will fast forward to a new time frame, with my title captioned over the screen. Usually this is notifying the viewer that there wasn't anything of enough significance to show or talk about in detail. That's kind of how I see our lives right now. 

Exactly 13 months ago today, Rebs and I flew into Denver. I feel like someone hit the pause button on our lives once we arrived, because the transition stage of relocating has been moving v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. After a short stint in Colorado, we settled ourselves into a cabin on the Illinois River. Why there? Two reasons: 1) it was close to my school, where I did a 6-month EMT program in Tahlequah. 2) rent was cheap (owned by my parents). But along with the romantic ideas of living in a cabin with some land and river access, there also comes the not-so-often-talked-about differences from city life.

1. Isolation - Our nearest neighbors live a half mile away from us. And though they are a very sweet, older couple, there is only so much we seem to have in common. Most people out there enjoy their privacy, and take pleasure in not seeing another soul other than family members in a day. Personally, I have always enjoyed a more communal lifestyle, where families live near each other, sharing what they have. In my mind, it can make life much easier for everyone. (See Acts 42)

2. Distance - The second cousin of isolation, this means that everything you want to do is far away. In Korea, we lived in a neighborhood, where there was a laundromat, bakery, ATM, grocery store, running trail, church, park, daycare, and several restaurants within a 5 minute walk from our house. At the cabin, if we need to buy milk or eggs, we have to drive about 8 miles for a price-gouging gas station, or 15 minutes for regularly priced groceries.  Usually, we'll plan our week around going into Siloam Springs for groceries, on the same day we go into town for other things. This means, whenever we go anywhere, our vehicles are packed full of trash, recycling, grocery bags, climbing gear, dog, running clothes, and the list goes on. Basically, whenever we leave, we make it count. It just means that days in town are busy.

3. Entertainment - (or the lack thereof) We chose not to afford television when we moved home. The cables to the cabin had been stripped when it was left vacant for several years, and the mess of rewiring everything wasn't something I was willing to take on. You might think we could just watch shows on the internet, but our satellite internet provider (satellite is the only option out here) regulates your usage, restricting us down to 10 gigabytes per month, unless you want to pay double for another 5 Gig. If that doesn't seem too bad, consider that anytime you stream music or watch a video on youtube or Netflix, you're usage is adding up quickly. A 2 hour HD movie is typically about 2 gig by itself. So that limits us.
     So we had to get creative. One thing we have plenty of is land, and fertile land at that. So I started a garden last year, for the first time since I was a child. It was fun, but in a mellow, meditative sort of way. It was also hard, because in trying not to use pesticides or fertilizers, many of my plants got devoured by animals and bugs who seem to love organic vegetables as much as we do. I continue to pick the brain of my mother-in-law who is a Master Gardener, and enjoys the garden as much, if not more than I do.
    We also built a climbing wall in the barn on the property. If you know me at all, you know that climbing is, and will likely always be, a lifetime passion. So not having any gym, and the closest climbable rock being 45 minutes away, we decided to build our own gym. Thanks to the knowledge and experience of my brother-in-law Cass, we were able to get the wall completed in just about 4 days worth of work over a few weeks. I have slowly been collecting climbing holds since then, putting up a new route about once every couple weeks. 

Somehow, I seem to have gotten off the main subject, telling you all about minor details, but avoiding the big picture. So let me zoom out and refocus. We moved back from South Korea because we wanted to start careers and a family. I went back to school to get an EMT license so I could be a firefighter. Rebs started pursuing her counseling license and working for an agency. After 6 months of no work, she got a great job and is taking her licensure exam in June. I got my EMT license last December, and will start as a fire fighter for Siloam Springs on April 8th. One of the stipulations of employment is that we live within the city limits, so we will be house shopping around Siloam Springs in the next few months. If anyone has any good leads, send them our way :).

It's been hard starting over, back in school, feeling like the old guy. I'll be starting as a 31-year-old fireman, whereas most guys get started ten years earlier. But I am so thankful for the time Rebs and I had to learn and grow on our own in Korea, away from what was comfortable and familiar. I would never take away that experience. I am so thankful for this life, and for the opportunity to start this new chapter.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"So, what's next for you guys???"

We've been getting this question a lot lately; so much so that I thought I'd attempt to write a formal response.

First of all, it's not an easy question to answer. It's really impossible to get things lined up and planned out when you're still living on the other side of the world. Often this simple, innocent question isn't met with an easy, straightforward answer. But, here is what we do know.

We're flying to Denver (via San Francisco) next Wednesday February 22nd. We fly out of Incheon at 6:15pm and arrive in Denver at 7:00pm the same day. This will literally be one of the longest days of our lives and will likely feel like a slow form of torture. In reality we will be traveling for 24+ hours next Wednesday. As long as everything goes according to plan, we will have our pup (Epic) in tow.

We plan to be in Denver for a week or so. During this time we plan to visit my dad, stepmom, brother, and some friends, buy a Honda CRV, get car insurance, get our hairs cut, get a massage (with my leftover gift certificate from Christmas last year), and adjust to the time change. Then we'll be on our way. We will possibly make a few stops in Kansas to visit some of my relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins) and old college roomies/teammates but I suppose this will depend on our timeline. Then we'll be Tulsa bound. We plan to spend a few days with Dusty's parents, reunite with our other pup (Legend), and hopefully get to see a few friends. Our next stop will be in Siloam Springs to see Brandi (Dusty's sister) and family. We hope to spend a few days with them and also visit some friends there. Next we'll head over to Fayetteville, AR to reunite with my mom and hopefully see some more friends. Then we'll probably head up to Rogers to visit with my grandparents.

After all that's said and done, we'll be able to focus more on moving and getting settled into our living space. We'll rent a moving van and load up everything out of our storage unit in Springdale. Then we'll make the trek out to the 'cabin in the woods down by the river', literally. A few years ago Dusty's parents bought a couple of cabins on 60 acres of land. The land is located about 1/2 way between Siloam Springs and Tahlequah and sits right on the Illinois River. They bought the property with a vision of retiring out there someday or just having them as a vacation getaway for family and friends. They've spent a lot of time and money over the past 2 years fixing them up and making them comfortable. Dusty's parents have been so gracious in offering to let us live there while we get ourselves settled into living in the States again.

We're hoping to start moving into the cabins sometime mid-March and will spend the next month or so figuring out our lives, looking for jobs, applying for counseling licensure (for me), getting enrolled in school (for Dusty), and possibly buying a 2nd vehicle if necessary. We're hoping to get a lot accomplished during this time and will hopefully learn a lot more about what the future holds for us after this. Among other things, we plan to help Dusty's parents with work projects around the cabins and on the land, build a climbing wall in the 'barn', plant a garden, and make a 2 mile running loop around the property. Dusty wants to learn how to hunt, possibly find work as a helping hand for the dairy/turkey farmer across the street, and in general find ways to live a greener more sustainable existence. I am planning to continue brushing up on all my counseling materials. I'll also be doing some crafty projects with my mom, help Dusty's parents with some of the interior decorating, continue training for the Hogeye 1/2 marathon, enjoy running, swimming, and playing with my two precious pups, and continue experimenting with cooking/baking from scratch using more plant-based foods and natural/organic ingredients.

During this time we're also hoping to reconnect more intimately with friends and family (especially our niece and nephews) and hopefully start making some new friends. We might also do a bit of church inspecting and examining to see if we find somewhere that feels like home. Otherwise, we're open to starting out our own gathering of likeminded peeps. Of course, we'll always be looking to take advantage of the nicer days to go climbing at Lincoln Lake and possibly make a trip or two out to the Buffalo for some more focused climbing. Needless to say, we will be BUSY!!!

Come April 14th we'll head over to Fayetteville for the weekend. I'll be running in the Hogeye 1/2 marathon on Sunday morning and then we'll hop in the car with our pups and drive 12 hours to Red River Gorge, Kentucky for a week of serious climbing. We are renting a cabin with 8 other people (several of which are friends from Korea). We're marking this week as the end of our transition phase back home and the beginning of our everyday life in America. When we return home from this trip our goal is to get down to serious business. Hopefully by this time I will have secured myself a counseling job and will be approved to start seeing clients. Dusty will be starting school at Cherokee Nation. He's going for his EMT/Paramedics certifications in hopes of becoming a firefighter. On the side, one or both of us may be working for Challenge Quest leading various ropes/challenge courses and Canopy Tours guiding zip-line tours. However, none of this has been solidified. It's all still in the works.

This is really as far as we've come. We continue to have big dreams and goals for our future which drive us to continue pursuing our passions in life, but ultimately God determines where we go, who we build relationships with, and how we spend our days. We're okay just knowing the next step or two and living out the adventure one day at a time.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Short Story (Part 4)

By the end of their first year in Korea, they had seen so many new things, and had so many new ways of looking at life...

They longed for something familiar...

They longed to see old friends and family.

So they went home.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Short Story (Part 3)

One activity the couple enjoyed together was rock climbing. They found that Korea was full of mountains for them to hike and climb, and enjoy with friends.

They did and saw so many things that year. It was beautiful, new, and exciting!

They got new ideas about EVERYTHING.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


For the first time in awhile, I'm feeling happy, excited, and thankful! I always seem to get depressed around this time of year, this one has been no exception. It's cold, it's dark, it's windy, I'm basically unemployed, I haven't climbed outside in months, and I've entered into a massive state of transition in basically every aspect of my life. Our apartment is nearly empty, the kitchen has becoming a sad, barren place, there is no place to sit except the floor, and most of our belongings are either en route to America or have been given away. Over the past two months, our life in Korea has slowly and methodically been taken apart piece by piece. It's been a long, emotional process for me. But what is starting to emerge is hope and ambition for our future.

The light at the end of this long, tedious tunnel of moving back to America is growing brighter each and every day. With it, I sense myself starting to come alive again. The end of a wonderfully thick chapter in my life is about to give way to a new one. I will miss my friends, my easy paycheck, and the uniqueness of our life here, but there is so much to look forward to in coming home. Best of all, we get to reunite with all our family and friends. As we continue to check things off our to-do list here, the burdensome tasks and anxious thoughts have started to fade away, allowing previously fuzzy dreams and possibilities to become tangible. Two weeks from today we'll hop on a plane bound for America with no plan to return to Korea. And we'll push 'play' on so many things that have been on 'pause' for several years. Now that is surreal!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Current State of Living

What I've been up to today:

What Dusty and Epic have been up to:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Short Story (Part 2)

At first, Korea felt really hard. Everything was much bigger and faster than where they had come from.

Fortunately, they worked with many other foreigners who helped them. They made friends and didn't feel so lonely.

They worked with children that didn't speak the same language. They were supposed to teach them English, but found that much of their jobs required more entertainment than education, hence the term "edutainment".