Here are some diary entries on my current rough patch here in Ulleungdo…

DIARY ENTRY #1: At School

My need to survive has started to scratch at the veneer of my feelings of goodwill. However, my latest mode of survival,  a kind of conscious hybernation is becoming a threat to myself. I have started partaking in this hybernation during class and often find myself suddenly regaining consciousness mid-sentence, while the special needs student is poking at whatever part of my body is currently nearest her. This attention is mostly unwanted and curiosity driven. As I remove her hand from my person (usually a clasp off the odd fatroll), I notice one student awaiting the conclusion of my explanation, while most others have fallen asleep or fallen into the spell which inhibits their ability to part with various objects such as hand-mirrors, cell phones and boyfriends. I have suddenly dropped everybody’s strands of thought. I am aware now that this is not survival. Whenever I am in Ulleungdo I find myself  polarised between the awe-striking beauty of Ulleungdo, and the apathy of dreams that come to die here.

DIARY ENTRY #2: At Art Class

My art teacher forces me to date and sign all my exercises. He says it forces me to be honest about my development. I feel I could do with a little less honesty.

DIARY ENTRY #3: On the bus from Seoul to Pohang

Finally, on a bus from Seoul to Pohang I am enjoying the 5 hour trip. It is exhilirating to be able to cover that quantity of road in one sitting. The seclusion of island life often causes me to feel like a boxed pigeon, looking at the world from below through punched holes. It’s a perverted angle for birds.

All these thoughts and events finally accumulated into a brilliant, though pathetic crescendo on a night I don’t wish to discuss or remember. The waking up suddenly brought all my thoughts to a sudden halt. What the hell am I doing? I am not a victim of my circumstances. I have had a choice all along. I always knew that I could choose what thoughts I allowed to camp out in my head and which ones I didn’t. 바보야 한영인!! Today I woke up with a clarity I hadn’t allowed myself in the past few weeks…of course, now that I can face my demons, its time to bid them farewell.

To celebrate the failed rebellion and humble return to the truth, I decided to make a Hardship Tree. My roomate from last year made a Christmas Tree from an old branch and decorated it with origami cranes and twinkly lights. I decided to use her Christmas tree to make something to remind me to face life with an attitude of overcoming. So, I tied string to little beach pebbles and hung them on the tree and then I used Korean Traditional Paper (like for lining doors and Chinese lanterns) to make leaves. The leaves signify growth, and the pebbles, difficulty. The idea is that with difficulty comes new growth and overcoming. So when I feel like I am having a hard time, I hang a pebble on the tree, but when I see victory in my life over anything, I glue a new leaf to the tree.

It’s a graph for the unmathematical, creative, visual learner…at night it doubles up as a lamp, and as a tribute to my friend, I hung some cranes inbetween the leaves. Its also great for dinner parties, because it gives your guests something to look at while you give the salad a final toss. Of course, you can also hang trinkets on it like shells and photographs and little cards with scriptures or messages from other guests.

Here’s a non-alcoholic toast to growing a full tree this year. It looks a little sad with only a few leaves….