I Remember The Hunger

17 01 2007

About four years ago, I was fresh out of college and fresh out of cash; my parents had recently terminated my allowance, my application to the college of music had been rejected by a “living legend”, and there I was, working on developing software at a government lab on a student assistant’s allowance.

The only reason I was still there was because I had been promised a permanent position and a (much-more) promising salary. In truth, I found the work boring and…I daresay…beneath my genius. Don’t get me wrong…software development is a tough (and lucrative) endeavor…but I was doing all the art and none of the coding, and frankly, I never saw myself making a living off graphic art; there are thousands of incredible graphic artists out there – why should anyone want one who studied numerical methods instead of color harmony?

Anyway, after about two months of slave labor, I was told the government couldn’t afford me. By this time, I was practically begging for food from my friends – no savings, no loose change. It is an absolutely humiliating experience to realize you don’t even have enough money to get more than a kilometer away from your house…much less feed yourself.

I wandered about in a daze for a few days, not quite knowing what to do. I had planned on getting a second degree in music immediately after graduating, and when that got rejected, I grabbed the first employment opportunity within sight. Now that that was going nowhere, I honestly had no idea what to do with myself.

I had been doing charity work for a church orchestra for about two years before, and the Korean founders were coming back to the country to check on the ensemble’s progress. The director asked me to accompany the founders (who were all women…well…one was a woman, the rest were girls) for the two weeks they would be in the country. They would pay. They would pay a lot.

Hence, my introduction to Korean culture. I often had to be at the ladies’ boarding house by half-past seven in the morning and I had to be with them wherever they fancied going for the next 12 – 14 hours.

It was exhausting work, to be sure – all of the ladies were musicians, and somehow, they were under the impression that I was at par with them (I wasn’t). The pieces they plopped in front of me to sightread with them were of horrifying difficulty (at the time), and I can remember withering beneath their puzzled expressions whenever I couldn’t get a part right. When I wasn’t murdering The Holy City and The Palms, I was trying to teach them english – an activity that was both charming and flusterring at the same time. One time, we (they) went swimming, and the girls wouldn’t let me swim with them because they were in their bathing suits. I sat a ways off to the side and did poetry (words came easily back then).

Despite this, I never got tired of tagging along as they yelled at each other from opposite sides of the stores in the mall (in Korean, of course); I never tired of pulling out the cello and struggling to play along these chinky-eyed wunderkinds; Indeed, during those days, I never woke up in the morning and wished I hadn’t. In fact, it was rather…fun.

And I certainly wasn’t going hungry; my first day on the job, they fed me pretty much everything in the refridgerator…and I ate everything (I was that hungry) – pickled garlic bulbs, uber-spicy garlic shoots, boiled octopus dipped in pepper paste, seaweed soup with ice cubes, pickled radishes, crispy seaweed (also known as nori), the omnipresent kimchi; I ate, and ate, and ate, and ate.  Interestingly enough, the girls wanted McDonald’s more than what they were giving me.

After two weeks, the ladies packed-up and left without saying goodbye (quite depressing; I had grown fond of those girls), but almost immediately the next day, I got a call from International Christian Academy Music School, asking if I would be willing to teach the violin to students. Imagine my bemusement upon arriving at the school and seeing (who else?) Koreans.

This is now my third year at ICA, and I’ve never had to beg for food since. I have met many Koreans (and other foreigners), some of whom I will forever miss, some of whom I would rather forget; I have met and made new, interesting friends among my fellow teachers; I have read many books.

I still lack many luxuries that my batchmates back in college now enjoy – fancy cellphones, notebook computers, palm pilots, iPods – I’m certainly not getting a car anytime soon – …but looking back at how the Lord has provided for me during and since those Days of Hunger, I cannot honestly say I have been shortchanged. Indeed, I lack no good thing.

And this, I must not forget.

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2 responses

19 01 2007
jac

i was wondering what hunger meant. i didn’t realize it was ‘hunger’ as i knew it.

10 02 2007
sillyserious

“Indeed, I lack no good thing.”

Amen. Hunger is good. Makes being filled all the more satisfying. May the hand of the Good Lord keep you hungry enough to want His filling 🙂

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