Before I Wake (Mid-Summer Dream pt. 4)

Mid-Summer Night’s Dream

PART IV (Revised)

“What is this place?” “Why is the traffic so bad?” “It is too hot!” “Why do the chickens have to be so noisy?” “Why are those annoying dogs barking all the damn time?!” “How many mosquito bites to I have to endure?” “This is my 5th meal for the day. When do we stop eating?” “There goes Lola complaining about the house again…”

As awesome as the adventures were, the everyday life that ensued afterwards grew tiring too easily. One of the most annoying parts was my lola. She went on complaining about everything and not a single thankfulness ran in her veins. Her other “friends” who help her with the housework are honestly sick of it, so they complain about it to us too. And I complain about it to myself. It was a never ending circle of negativity. The only hope I had was that this wasn’t my “real” life and that I’ll leave this crappy household soon.

I really did not want to end up that way. I did not want to wish that I was back in Korea, taking hold of the reins of my life again, but it was too difficult not to. I wanted to have a say in what, when, and how I eat, sleep, and spend my days. I got sick of having to wake up early, fix my bed, and eat breakfast as a requirement. I felt uncomfortable about not having enough privacy.

But it wasn’t all that bad, and I shouldn’t actually be complaining, because as soon as I get back to Korea, everything will change. So for the last few days, I tried my best to enjoy the vacation, despite all the awful things to complain about. There were good stuff too: spending time with little cousins, shopping, good food, and comforting rainy nights.

One thing I’m really grateful for is spending time with Daniel and Mateo. I absolutely love them both and they mean a lot to me. I have always wanted baby brothers, and they are the closest thing to a baby brother I could ever have. They’re both crazy, but they’re so sweet. I have never been showered with so much love by little kids in ages. I love it when they bother me and tell me stories and talk about their toys. Sure, it can get annoying at times, and what they say are mostly nonsense, but I learned so much just by listening to them. It’s interesting because I know that when I was a kid I had ridiculous points of view as well. Listening to them showed me children’s culture, and it’s is very refreshing to get back to a child’s brain after “adulting” for a year or two. The two of them also remind me of my listening days in AWANA. I loved listening to the kids back then too. They were all so cute reciting verses, so it messes with my brain whenever I hear about Christelle attending Wildfire. She used to be 9. She recited verses to me often. Haha. I’m old. Dammit. Sooner or later baby Mateo would probably go through puberty and won’t get away with squeezing my butt and calling me sexy anymore.

For the last few days, we got to spend time with the dentist. I know a lot of people dislike dentists, but I am oddly one of those few people who don’t mind being at the dentist. First of all, I’d rather spend an uncomfortable time at the dentist rather than have bad teeth. And since I’ve had this terrible “jaw problem” (TMJ) for a while, dentists are always fascinated by me, (probably not in a good way) and I can’t help but just find it amusing. Like yeah, tell me something I haven’t Googled…

And that’s exactly what the dentist did. He told me my entire body was going to go asymmetrical everywhere else if I let my jaw get worse. I wasn’t sure if he was exaggerating or not, but it sure scared the hell out of me. It could mean health problems, body pain, eating disorders, and the worst, asymmetric face. Of course, as a human being, I did not want to look crooked and ugly (and yeah as shallow as outward aesthetic is, I care about that now in my 20’s). To be completely honest, I want to look decent, and yes, even being called pretty feels nice. As boyish as I seem to be sometimes, I’m still a girl. Sometimes, I do look at the mirror and think, “Gosh, I’m so ugly.” I think all girls have done that. Even Seohyun, the prettiest SNSD member in my eyes, used to look at the mirror and think her face is weird. Taeyeon had to yell at her in Infinite Note to let her know she was beautiful. Even 얼굴 천재 Irene wears glasses to hide her face, because she thinks she’s ugly. Even after the entire country has branded her as 얼굴 천재–RIDICULOUS, I know. Sometimes, I’d wonder why God made me like this, but really, I never complain to Him about this stuff. I know appearance isn’t everything, but I do want to look nice and wish to be pretty sometimes. Actually, I just want to look normal. I don’t want to look weird. And if my jaw would get worse, as I have been feeling for some time, it will probably be a hard pill to swallow. It’ll be like, “Yep, I’m abnormal, and the joints that connect my jaw are kinda ruined. I’ll just deal with that for the rest of my life,” when all I ever wanted is to be “normal.”

But what is normal anyway? If you look closely at everyone, they all have odd qualities and imperfections that make them unique. Like how some people have one ear sticking out more than the other, or like how some people have irregular curly hair. (Yep, both me.) Everyone is different, so nobody will actually normal enough to fit one specific mold.

Just look at her ears! Good thing my ears are not as big as hers, because then everyone would notice that my left ear sticks out more than the right one too. XD

TMJ isn’t just a harmless flaw, however. It is actually uncomfortable, like something for sure isn’t normal with the way my jaw moves. Sometimes it even hurts. It would probably be easier to accept it if it didn’t have any bad consequences (other than looking ugly), but since it had gotten worse to the point that even my bone and facial muscles were having a hard time. So yeah, for “normal” bodily function’s sake and not for aesthetic’s sake (though that would be good too), I prayed hard that something would help, and I think the childhood dentist in our neighborhood was the answer.

It was odd meeting that old dentist again. I remember how he was the very first person to tell me that I would have problems with my jaw when I was a kid. That was way before I even noticed any problems and my jaw was perfectly normal. And yet I never forgot. I never forgot what he told me, and it took me well into my teenage years to figure out that what he said was true, and it was getting worse. I really felt like God has led me back here after all these years. After going through fancier, more expensive hospitals like NMC in Abu Dhabi and MIR in Daegu, they have all failed to explain to me what is going on with my jaw. But since this old dentist with a small humble office in my childhood neighborhood predicted my case ages ago, I kind of knew that God had brought this connection back to life for a reason. It all started with this dentist anyway. I honestly did not expect to ever see him again, but wow, did God do well. The dentist made me a mouth-guard-like appliance that I had to wear all the time to keep my jaw from biting hard. I guess it has worked pretty well so far since I don’t move my jaw too far to the left anymore, and people noticed my jaw has gotten “slimmer.” It’s a good change. I also feel a lot better, even though, I have this weird thing stuck to my teeth. It’s better than having a crooked face though.

On the final day when I leave for Korea again, I was nervous about my Alien Registration Card. And well, waddya know… the check-in lady won’t let me check in and said that I needed an affidavit of loss, whatever that was. So I went back to my mom and told her that I couldn’t board the plane without it. And so we tried to get an affidavit of loss at some small notary public. (If it weren’t for this, I probably would never know what a notary public was for.) I prayed so hard that everything would go well. I actually did not want to leave my mom and sister, but it would be such an awkward time if I couldn’t go that day, because they were also leaving tomorrow. If I couldn’t leave that day, I would have to deal with preparing all those necessary papers by myself, and I just CAN’T ADULT in the country. I just can’t. I can take good care of myself in Korea, and handle my visa and paperwork etc., but no, I had no confidence in doing any of that in the Philippines. The lack of order in that country is so different from the culture I grew into adulthood in.

When my mom and I were able to get the affidavit of loss, I went back to the check-in counter and this time, they made me wait because they had to email the Korean Embassy about my visa. It took ages, and the lady told me to just come back later, but no, I had to stay there and make sure I can actually get in before I rest. That lasted for about an hour or so. I was so frustrated that I had to wait that long, because I couldn’t get to eat one last lunch with my mom and sister. Instead, I spent all that time standing at the side like an idiot, waiting for them to confirm that I DO HAVE A VALID VISA. When it was finally confirmed, there was no more time. I went straight to the immigration line.

At the immigration line, I started hearing people announcing that the plane to Busan was boarding. One of the announcing officers told me to just cut in line, so I did, but the immigration officer guy got angry with me and cursed at me. He was pissed and didn’t want to let me pass without my ARC (even though it was already confirmed by the check-in counter), but he let me pass anyway because I prayed, and God used “the force” to change the dude’s mind. So then I ran to the boarding area and immediately got into the plane. Finally, it was done.

The moment I took my seat in the plane, separation anxiety started kicking in. The playlist I was listening to made it even worse. “넘어와” (DEAN ft. 백예린), “Good for You” (Eric Nam)… Damn, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry… I kept repeating to myself. I thought I went through this with myself already–that I wasn’t going to cry. I already made up my mind that I was better off living alone and doing whatever I want, and that Korea had nice weather, and I was going to sleep again in my room… but none of that worked. I sat there, awkwardly pulled my black hat lower, put my mother’s mask on, and silently let my tears fall. Meanwhile, there were two Filipino girls sitting on my right, and they seem so excited… Yep, I’d be excited too, but Korea isn’t foreign anymore to act all tourist-y at the moment.

The flight was pretty uneventful. When I got out of the plane, my ears were pretty bad and all the sounds seemed muffled. And yet, I knew I was back when I understood everything the Korean immigration officer said to me, and I replied back to him in Korean. Yep, I’m back. Some Filipinos looked at me oddly while I was speaking to the officer, and well, yeah, I felt awkward being stared at like that, but yeah, I speak Korean… NO BIG DEAL, STOP LOOKING.

I was really tired that night, so I immediately went out to the taxi stand. I was really to tired to even function, and thankfully God did the rest for me. There was this ahjusshi just waiting and motioned with his hand to come closer, so I followed him to his taxi. He grabbed my luggage and put it in the trunk, and asked me where I was going, so I showed him the address of my lodging for the night. I just trusted that he knew this city better than I do. He kindly went out of his way to show me exactly where I would be staying and even asked the guard of the apartment complex exactly which building I was supposed to stay. He even taught me how to enter the passcode. He was so nice. At times like this, I feel like God actually acts like a Father who drags around his children to places. I don’t really see Him physically, but He was totally taking care of everything that night when my brain wasn’t fully operating anymore.

During my overnight stay in Busan, I could not sleep at all. I had a bad cold at that time, so I was coughing hard the entire night. I was also very distracted of the view from up 40 or so floors high. At 3 am I was staring at the little lights in some buildings, wondering why in the world they would have lights on at this hour. Why are they not sleeping? Why am I not sleeping? I’m really tired though. Then I turned the TV on and heard 빨간맛 (Red Velvet) about more then 5 times just switching through channels. It was used as background music for random shows. I was really happy, and yet I thought it was kind of strange, because we’re talking Red Velvet here, SM’s poor little girl group. (Later on I would find out that Red Velvet has blown up in popularity in Korea while I was away in the Philippines.) Since my throat was hurting, I fumbled through the stuff in the room and found complementary tea, and a water heater. That’s when I got back to talking to myself and laughing all alone. It was so weird.

When I got home, the first thing I noticed was that my house looked exactly the same. It was a bit messy, like I had just gotten home from school. There was no food in the fridge, as usual, and the dust on the side table looked exactly the same. It was like I just left this place in the morning and got back the next night. It didn’t seem like I left for more than a month. I also got a text from 나연 언니 and 태환 오빠 about having lunch that evening, so it really was like I didn’t leave at all. I’m already back to having meals with them. That’s fast. It actually just felt like I had woken up from a really long dream, and continued to go on with my day as if nothing happened. And yet, when 왕로 saw me, she looked so excited and shocked and was like “똑띠!” like that crazy night in June was just last night. When I met up with other friends, they’d say stuff like, “Oh hey, it’s been a while!” “I haven’t seen you in ages!” But I don’t feel that way. It felt like I literally just saw them a few days ago, yet that wasn’t the case. “You’re gotten prettier.” “You lost weight!” It all sounds ridiculous, because it did not seem like that vacation even happened at all. But it did, and there is proof everywhere that it did happen.

Days later, when it finally dawned on me that the vacation really happened, I went into a low. It was like post-vacation blues or something. I thought about the Philippines and my family the whole time and kept browsing through the photos. It’s over, I kept thinking. It was a bit upsetting. So I tried to distract myself by drawing, watching TV and other things. It was a totally boring way to spend the last weeks of my vacation, but what can I do? It was the monsoon. I didn’t want to go out when it was raining outside either. But I can’t really complain now, can I? After all the trouble I went through just to get back to Korea, I really can’t complain now.

A few days later, school started as if it never ended during the summer. Everyone was there, and it was routine all over again. I began working on the newspaper again, and was busier than ever. The vacation is officially over. But I can’t complain. I’ve gotten this far, and I can’t really go back. There was nothing to go back to. I have to keep going.

Here’s to the second-half of 2017. Let’s work hard and make the best of it!


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