Birds of a Lesser Paradise

Recently finished reading Megan Bergman’s “Birds of a Lesser Paradise.” A few honorable mentions from the short stories in the book that really tug at my heartstrings and conscience.

Yesterday’s Whales:

This story presented a man of incredible and stubborn conviction and a woman who was torn between two contradicting convictions. The man believed humans were the bane of all existence. That the only solution to all the problems in the world would be the extinction of the human race. The woman, his partner, grew to believe what he believed. She went through the motions and eventually adopted his convictions as her own. Eventually, “there were unspoken rituals and routines, books on the nightstand that reminded us what kind of people we were should we forget for a moment, or be tempted to change.” Then, the world seems to come against her by giving her a life inside of her own womb. Abortion is the man’s automated response without a second or third thought. Uncertainty was the woman’s response. In the possibility of being a mother, her thoughts wander to the idea of mothers. She thinks, “mothers i believe, intoxicate us. we idolize them and take them for granted. we hate them and blame them and exalt them more thoroughly than anyone else in our lives. we sift through the evidence of their love, reassure ourselves of their affection and its biological genesis. we can steal and lie and leave and they will love us.” She also remembers something her own mother shared with her about whales and she pictures “the mother whale, exhausted from labor, pushing her calf up to the skin of the water. the miracle of breath in the face of predation, life in the wake of whaling ships.”

The Artificial Heart:

The advancement of technology has made it possible to prolong life beyond it’s designated limit. Artificial hearts to replace ones that no longer function as it should. Causing struggle and angst between the living and a living machine. The main character had “become one of many cash-strapped caregivers with no children of her own – just the responsibility of an aging parent modern medicine had turned into an invincible robot, a robot puttering around outmoded and diapered, trying to make sense of tangled strings of thought.” Her father was tired of living but had a heart that prevented him from getting what he wanted. His daughter, his caretaker, would hold his hand, “half loving, half impatient.” When he would act out, she would feel like “a disappointed parent.” She would think, “his failings were now my own. I felt Dad’s pain acutely, but part of me wished my responsibilities were over. I was tired. The feeling reminded of the look I’d seen in a friend’s eyes as she repeatedly corrected her special-needs child, who bit the other kids in his playgroup – embarrassment, love, determination, fatigue.” Made me think about how far do we push modern science in order to play God. Is prolonging someone’s life the most loving thing to do or is it not? Who knows. But thoughts to be thought.

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Seorak Round 2

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Hallasan in March. Jirisan in May. Seorak in October. The three highest peaks in South Korea. With a random hodgepodge group of my roommate, colleagues and church mate, we embarked on what would be a very difficult hike. The hike started in the pitch dark at around 5 something in the morning. Our host lady was kind enough to drive our gang all the way out early in the morning. With about 12 hours of hiking ahead of us, we hit the trail and carefully made our way through the dark until the sunrise gave us reprieve about an hour into our hike.

At one point early on, I really didn’t think I could do it. It helps though when you have a whole group of people going with you. I couldn’t give up if they were still trekking. Too competitive for that. So onward I went with the incredible fall foliage unfolding as we ascended. The mist and fog was also a very nice touch to the canvas. With many breathtaking views and painstaking endurance, we made it to the freezing top. We celebrated, had a drink, and took a well-deserved photo before we decided it was too cold to stay there.

When I was younger, I always thought going up was harder. With age, it is not so. Going down proved to be harder than the climb. My knees and feet were taking a brutal beating with each step. I will say though, the route down was absolutely worth the pummeling. It was like walking through Rivendell in Lord of the Rings. We encountered waterfall after stream after gorges. Living in Korea, you can often forget how beautiful Korea is. This was a great reminder. The rest of the way down was spent admiring God’s creation. About 11 hours from when we began, we made our way to the bottom of the mountain. A very memorable trip.

Jirisan

Jirisan. Claims the second highest peak in South Korea. The highest on the mainland. With my newfound love for hiking, it was a must. This would be my first overnight/sunrise hike. Food list checked. Bags packed again. Hiking boots on. Along with some great company and we were off. A few highlights from the trip:

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snackin’ in the shade
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#truestory #struggleisreal
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napping with this surrounding us
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dinner at sunset
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the hiking culture is awesome, the people included. got to meet the head kahuna of jirisan national park and his buddies. shared some good conversations about hiking, career goals and just life in general. good times.
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mmm catching that sunset.
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never fails.
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up early to catch the sunrise.
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mandatory photoshoot session: aaron
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mandatory photoshoot session: katherine
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mandatory photoshoot session: me
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yes, it was freezing. sleeping bag was clutch
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get that jump shot
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the meals after hikes are seriously the best

Hands-down one of the most difficult hikes I’ve done thus far. It was a very intense uphill battle nearly the entire way with almost no reprieve. Still, it’s that feeling of overcoming a struggle that makes it so worth it. Seoraksan, we coming for you next.

A Day at Seorak

Beautiful weather. Sun was shining. Breeze was breezin’. Bags were packed. Hiking shoes were on and it was game on like Donkey Kong. Came ready for a 12-hour all day hike, but due to some rotten luck, entrance to the peak was prohibited. Instead, we hiked up Ulsanbawi, which was also challenging and hiked over to the waterfalls afterwards. Places like this make me enjoy this country just a little bit more 🙂

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