I’m reading A Path Appears this week and it’s blowing my mind. In a nutshell it’s about how we can donate our time and money to good causes most effectively but it explains and describes so much more than that as well. I first heard about the book in this wonderful interview.
I was excited to join the new Passport program through Pencils of Promise. They invited me when it was still under wraps and I found out later that I was member #111 (a very auspicious number, so I thought that was cool, like the dork I am). It’s basically an automatic recurring donation program, plus a few perks. Learn more and become a member here! They also have donation matching set up for your first month for the first 1000 members.
I used CheapoAir to book my flights to New Delhi and then later Toronto and got an absurd deal. I’ll write more about the “return” tickets on this site soon but until then, check it out!
I have been loving the new NPR podcast Invisibilia after hearing previews of it on This American Life and Radiolab. Really good stuff.
In other podcast news, I thought that this episode of the Lively Show about small business fears and struggles was so relatable and down-to-earth and refreshing.
I thought this video of Korean girls trying American snacks for the first time was hilarious. It was cool to see exactly what they were saying and really get a sense of their personalities – that’s sometimes lost when people speak their second language.
The last weekend of January and the first one of February (technically): time. is. flying. I booked my flight home this week (I’ll be back late July!) so everything is starting to move much more quickly. I’m excited about all my upcoming plans but trying, of course, to stay present and enjoy my last two months in Korea. This weekend I’m planning to go shopping in one of my favourite areas and then get a lot of work done. I won’t have a computer on me while travelling so I have to try and get ahead. Enjoy your weekend!
Living abroad for a year is an interesting lesson in presence. It asks you: can you be fully here now, without worrying about the future or wishing for something else? I don’t think that question is unique to living abroad – in fact I think it’s always being asked of all of us in one way or another – but you can hear it so much more loudly when you only have one year of living somewhere.
For me at least, it’s often a struggle. Let me be clear: I love my life here in Korea and am so grateful for the opportunities it’s given me. Yet at the same time, with two months to go, I feel like I’m ready for the next stage in my adventure. Striking that balance of appreciation and presence vs. planning and looking forward is hard. Staying present, both in everyday moments and in this broader chapter of my life, is hard.
One of my favorite quotes is from Meryl Streep: “I want to feel my life while I’m in it”. And I do think that the magic happens in the moment, not after it’s passed. I think happiness happens now, not after some distant milestone in the future. And on a deeper level, I recognize that we only really have this moment, right now – though this idea is much easier to grasp conceptually than it is to apply it in the real world.
Still, I don’t want to sleepwalk through my life and I don’t want to be on autopilot. I want to be fully conscious, even if that means experiencing the hard things and the boring things and the tedious things. Because as Brené Brown says: “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
And I think that being caught up and just going through the motions every day is a form of numbing those negative emotions of boredom and anxiety. It’s so, so easy to go through a day without having a special, positive experience to light it up. And of course, it can be incredibly hard to choose to look for those moments or be open to them. When I’m late, when I’m tired, when I’m stressed and overwhelmed, or when the children are screaming and running around the classroom, it’s easy to shut down and tune out and think only about me me me.
In fact, staying present and choosing is probably the hardest thing I’ll ever try to do. There’s a speech by David Foster Wallace that I come back to again and again in my life that talks all about this, and it’s definitely worth a listen.
Some days I succeed at noticing other people and seeing lovely moments and finding the humour and actively appreciating. Other days go by in a haze of headphones and distraction and little-to-no eye contact. Some days I remember to make an effort and other days I am so caught up in my head that I totally forget to even try. Most days are a combination of both. It’s helpful to remind myself that I am always trying my best, whatever my best is on that given day. I think that working on staying present is a daily lifelong challenge, or as Laura says, “a mountain with no top”.
This week on the podcast, we’re talking all about presence: practices that help us stay in the moment, quotes that offer us perspective, why presence matters so much, how it can improve our relationships, and how it can make us happier. You can find the episode and the show notes here or subscribe on iTunes here.
On Saturday, I got laser eye surgery here in Korea. It was a really wonderful experience and the best part is that I can now see! So far into the distance! Without wearing glasses! I know that’s the whole point of getting laser eye surgery, but as someone who has lived almost her whole life wearing some kind of corrective lenses – to me this is quite literally a miracle. This is a very long post, but I wanted to share my experiences for anyone thinking about getting LASIK in Korea.
One part of my motivation for coming to Korea would be to get my eyes fixed here. Korea has the highest number of LASIK procedures in the world because in general there is more myopia (farsightedness) here, at least according to my optometrist. This means they are very efficient and supply-and-demand means the price is much lower! It all depends on where you go, but you can expect to pay around 1,300,000 won or about $1200 US dollars. Back home, it’s usually at least this much or more per eye, so it’s definitely worth the cost. Also since I wear contacts, this surgery will pay for itself in just a few years.
I had a really easy and straightforward experience with my surgery and really liked the clinic I chose. I’d had Hivue Eye Clinic in Seomyeon recommended to me by a few friends who had done the procedure earlier in the year. They offered a discount to foreigners as many clinics in Korea do. There is also a very nice man who speaks English well and can help you with many steps of your process. If anyone is looking to have this done in Busan just send me an email and I’ll pass along his contact information.
The timing of my procedure was so easy. I booked a consultation for Saturday but had heard that sometimes they offer to do the surgery the same day. They warned me not to wear contacts a week before the surgery, but since I didn’t think I would be having the surgery on the day of my consultation I only stopped wearing them about 4 days before. Still, they said it was fine.
My consultation was at 11:30 and took about 1.5 hours from start to finish, including several tests of my eye health and determining my prescription. That included a sit-down meeting where they explained to me each test and my results compared to the normal baseline population. I had never gotten that kind of information on my eye health back in Canada and I must say it was both interesting and comforting to know. Then they sent me off for lunch and told me to come back in an hour for the surgery.
I came back, was sent down to the pharmacy to buy some eye drops, signed a consent form and had two more short tests. Then I was taken up to the surgery room and had to wait quite a while for someone else’s procedure to be completed. But once it was my turn, it moved very quickly and took altogether only about 1/2 an hour in total.
Here are some things you might encounter:
They took my blood to make “medicine”. (I’ve since Googled this and no longer am so alarmed, but trust me I was at first.) They use your blood plasma to make special “autologous” eye drops that prevent dry eye and encourage healing. But I have friends that went to other eye clinics in Korea and did not have this.
I had to stand in a special wind chamber before entering the operating room, presumably to get all the dust off my clothes.
Since it’s Korea, I had to take off my shoes outside the operating room.
The staff may not speak much English. I was lucky that my optometrist had some basic English, enough to explain the procedure, and I had help from the contact who works with this clinic.
During the surgery (I had LASIK, not LASEK):
You might have to get up after the corneal flap has been cut and move to another operating table across the room. This was a very surreal experience and all I could think was “there are flaps in my eyes!” That said, I could see fine to walk even if it was a little blurry.
You won’t feel any pain or even much sensation. There is an intense pressure on your eye before they make the flap, but after that I didn’t feel anything. My biggest fear was having to watch what was happening but in fact I couldn’t see much at all.
You will smell a funny burning smell when they use the correcting laser, which is a bit disconcerting.
The lights are very, very bright and it was hard for me to keep my eyes open.
You don’t have to worry too much about keeping your eyes open because there is a (painless) clamp that holds your eyelid gently open.
After the surgery:
This will differ for everyone of course, but at my clinic they said I’d be totally fine to walk around and see right after and I was. I took the subway home with a friend of mine but I probably could have navigated it alone! That said, I had some discomfort: it felt as if there was something in my eye, and I had a lot of light sensitivity for the first few hours. Also, things were a bit filmy and blurry with a halo effect around lights. Before I went to bed that night though, it was much more comfortable and I could see pretty clearly. When I woke up on Sunday, it was like magic! My eyes as of this writing are still fairly dry but my vision is great! In general, my clinic said to expect only about one day to recover from the LASIK procedure.
Be prepared to go into the clinic after one day, one week, two weeks, and a month intervals. My day-after followup was a very short eye test and the doctor took a look at my eye under the microscope. Everything looked fine and they say I have above 20/20 vision now.
I was really pleased with my experience and am absolutely thrilled with the results. My recovery time was absurdly short with minimal discomfort and best of all, my eyesight is great now. I am so excited that I was able to give myself this gift and feel very lucky that I got the opportunity to be in Korea and was able to feasibly save up for this.
If anyone has any questions about the procedure, let me know in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer them.
Would you ever get a medical procedure in another country? If you wear glasses, would you get laser eye surgery to correct your vision?
This month I donated to Book Aid International and Grace in the Philippines (via Kiva). I also joined a really awesome new giving program that’s still in beta but I’ll be sure to talk about it once it’s no longer a secret! You can see all the organizations I support here.
Oy, another hectic week. Luckily I’m back to my preferred afternoon schedule next week so I’ll hopefully feel a bit more rested and less rushed. This weekend I have a consultation about LASIK eye surgery (!!) and plans to meet up with friends. I’m looking forward to both relaxing and working. Hope you have an awesome weekend!