The other day I was writing in my notebook. I think a lot about a person’s relationship to place, was thinking about my relationship to all the places I’ve been. I wrote:
“Every place that I am sorry to leave is a place I rooted in. It feels like stealing –growing in people’s kindness to a stranger and then moving on. Wonder if I leave the soil richer or depleted when I do.”
I was on my way to the bathroom when the captain yelled my name from inside the hengjangshil. Ok, yes, I have a moment for coffee, I suppose, and another iteration of this conversation that we have all the time. I wish at the end of these things that I could get my hands on the scrap paper that he uses as a crutch, with its diagrams and translations.
“Warm-hearted,” he says. The students, he tells me, say that I am warm hearted. He says warm-hearted and draws a circle that he calls Hallim Girls’ Middle School. He draws an arrow idicating my flight to America, and a small fly-looking sketch on the line that he calls the airplane. These are the only things that I’m sure of, but he draws another cirlce, next to the circle that my warm-heartedness seems to inhabit, and says something about this other circle, which I think is the school without me, and I want very much for him to have said that I will leave something of myself in that cirlce too. I cannot be sure, but he seemed to be in a good mood about it.
We went on to the subject of life-long learning. He keeps telling me I should get a job at the UN where I can work and be a life-long learner and come back to Korea. I taught him the phrase global citizen. The conversation ended with “Let’s meet next summer vacation in Philadelphia!”