Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

2011 was . . . wow, even I am at a loss as to how to describe it.  I think this is the best I can do:  2011 was a bipolar teenage female year having a very rough, long menstrual cycle and occasionally getting drunk or taking mind-altering anti-psychotic medications in order to cope with it, and also battling numerous authority issues.  Yup, that about sums up 2011.

History students will one day study this year -- actually, my history students will study it for a little while when they return to school at the end of January!  It was the year of protests, revolutions, scandals, dead despots, and the world media's obsession with Pippa Middleton's rear end.  I don't have space for all of the events that took place, but here were just a few that captured my attention:

  • The US finally got Bin Laden.  Now I am not a person who rejoices in death of anyone, but here I had to make an exception.  That man was evil.  I don't care that another will just rise up to take his place; Bin Laden had a special kind of dreadful hate about him, and I cheered when I read that he was gone from the world at last.  I still have nightmares sometimes about September 11 -- that day will likely haunt me for the rest of my life, and I didn't even lose anyone that day.  I cannot forget the horrible, wrenching fear that gripped us all that day and the days that followed.  My teenage journal records all the sleepless nights I spent as a high-schooler, convinced that we were headed for World War III.
  • The Arab Spring.  It was like a game of Middle Eastern dominoes, with revolutions breaking out right and left and Twitter and Facebook suddenly playing a role that their creators never imagined.  I hope and pray that the new governments will do better by their people than the old, but . . . I am not holding my breath.
  • The deaths of Qaddafi and Kim.  Two more evil men, both of whom had hands and hearts so blackened with blood and corruption that they almost ceased to be human. Others will take their places, sadly.  Especially in the case of North Korea, winter is far from over.
  • A whole bunch of people throughout the US got really mad, had no common goals/aims/ideologies, and decided to riot and basically make lawless pests of themselves.  I'm sorry -- I just can't take the "Occupy" protesters seriously.  Change is not brought about by neglecting your responsibilities, shouting, waving signs (several of them with abominably bad spelling, by the way), and trying to goad the police into using gas.  What takes place when those protesters gather is nothing grander than small-scale anarchy -- it's like a bunch of overgrown toddlers throwing tantrums because Mommy won't let them breastfeed anymore.  Yes, change needs to happen, though I am certain I disagree with most of the protesters as to exactly what type of change is necessary.  There is certainly a better way to bring it about.

2011 was a big year in my personal life as well.  I really have no historical significance at all, although I do like to hope that I at least brighten whatever corner I happen to be in (I do try, anyway).  However, since this is MY blog, I'm going to indulge in mild narcissism and review some of the big events that happened to me this year:
  • I brought in 2011 with no clear idea of what my future held, other than that I was pretty sure God was ignoring my wishes and calling me back to the classroom.  After the Manasses experience, I had sworn off ever teaching again.  Fortunately, God knows what's best for me and never listens to my feeble protests (to be fair, He does make the journey very pleasant once I stop kicking and screaming).  It was not until February that I became aware that I was likely headed back overseas in my future -- and even then, I confess that I had plenty of doubts.  I had two dogs, tons of furniture, and a car -- how could I possibly leave the USA?
  • I fought the War of the Thesis.  It was bloody, exhausting, fraught with danger and difficulty, plus the CIA tried to reclassify a large portion of the documents that I needed.  At several points, both my thesis chair and I believed that the thing would never be written.  I had nightmares about showing up to my defense with nothing to defend.  I even wrote a short story about my thesis becoming self-aware, coming to life, and trying to kill me.  On April 23, just a few months after I started, I was able to write on this blog, "As of 10:00 am today, the horrible, monstrous, insidious, ill-formed offspring of my feeble mind, also known as my thesis, which has plagued me like a host of ten thousand camels tap-dancing on my shoulders in combat boots, is finally written."  On May 2, I defended the monster and passed with flying colors!  In the same vein, I graduated on May 13 with my Master of Arts degree in history, having completed it in a year and a half, and finishing with High Distinction (solid 4.0).  That's pretty much the biggest achievement in my 27 years of life.
  • There was, of course, the car accident on May 6.  A distracted young driver hit me head-on on a mountain road.  She is now trying to push a claim against me.  Ah, irresponsible, greedy Americans -- how they warm the heart.
  • I moved to China!  It was by far the biggest decision of my life, but once I made it, I never doubted that it was the right choice (even though my family thought I was nuts -- they usually do, so I lovingly ignored them).  Since leaving in late July, I have found a degree of happiness and contentment that I previously could never have imagined.  I teach at a fantastic school with the finest group of educators I have ever met, and my students are a brilliant and witty ensemble of pure awesomeness. I don't have a single student that I would like to lead to the guillotine!  I occasionally indulge in the mental image of bopping one or two of them, but on the whole, I love 'em all!  I also have had my heart completely stolen away by China -- who would ever have foreseen it?
  • My mom got sick.  This was, for me, probably the most difficult thing to get through in 2011.  She's doing all right now, but for a while, she had me pretty terrified.  It's really tough to grapple with sick relatives and not be able to do anything for them because you're thousands of miles away.
  • I wound up on this surprise extended journey in Korea, all because of an obstinate ankle that refuses to behave.

And so, I face 2012 with a lot less uncertainty than I faced 2011 (for one thing, I have THE BEST JOB EVER! and for another, I don't have to worry about whether or not I can actually write a thesis).  As I enter another year, I do have a few questions on my mind:
  • Will I start the new year with an operation?
  • When do I get to leave Korea and go back to China (not that Korea isn't a great country, but China is home)?
  • Will Kim Jong-Un be as evil as his father?  What will happen here in Asia because of him?
  • How will I ever get this bloodsucking reckless driver off my back?  Doesn't she realize that I'm as good as a pauper?!
  • How soon is too soon to give my freshmen a pop quiz next semester?
  • Being out of sight, is it only a matter of time before I'm out of mind for the people I left behind in the USA?  Has it already happened with some?
  • How can I better brighten my corner?  Am I doing enough?

Farewell, 2011!  Welcome into the world, 2012!
And a happy New Year to everyone!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"