Itching

Sunghoon Kwak - India


July 29, 2017

When I first got to the States at just seven years old, I had no idea I would be calling it my new home. See, I had just spent my first seven years in the Philippines and was informed that we would now be living in Korea. The trip to the United States? That would just be a short vacation to explore some American soil. Soon enough, I figured out that the vacation would be a more permanent one, as I've been exploring American soil for over twelve years now.

And frankly, I had grown tired of it.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Florida and the States. No other nation would be as welcoming as the US to an immigrant like me. But I've grown accustomed to it. Grown apathetic to the commercialism and rampant materialism.

And so I've been itching for something different. An itch that stayed dormant since my departure from the Philippines, but one that erupted again once I found myself in the heart of Merida, Mexico. During my month stay in Mexico, I felt connected to the city and the people. Every aspect of my trip was genuine and although I faced hardship and a very obvious language barrier, the locals were sure to pick me up with their words as I tried to communicate with them in half broken Spanish and half body language that looked like a madman had just found themselves on the streets of Merida. It was beautiful. And so I longed for an experience similar to that one ever since.

Around a month ago, I was introduced to Global Citizen Year. In a hurry, I applied to the program, thinking it could be the one. The one opportunity to send me back. An opportunity to reconnect with my roots and take what I learned in the States and rekindle my passion for a close and loving community. I had to force myself to stop daydreaming about GCY because I knew that the chance of being accepted was slim. Even then, I couldn't help but think of how my future would be shaped if I were able to take the year in a foreign land.

And so I waited.

I got moved to the interview round. Excited but trying not to keep my hopes up, I attempted to keep a cool and collected demeanor. An attempt that fell through as soon as I started the interview. I couldn't stop bubbling about how much I loved the idea of GCY and its opportunity. The interviewer laughed cheerfully at my enthusiasm and told me to look out for an email in the upcoming days with a smile. I was elated.

"Congratulations! You're going to India!"

No way. Is this real life? My heart pounded as my dreams came true. I would be spending the next year in India, teaching children and taking up apprenticeships while enjoying the community of Pune. The only problem was money. No longer was this a choice of passion, but one of practicality. Is a year in India worth the hefty investment?

Have you ever had an itch? Not just any itch. The kind that starts out pretty small, where it's almost just an annoyance. If you let that itch be, it'll start to grow. At first, you can distract yourself from it. But soon enough, the itch starts occupying your mind. You try to read a book, watch TV, play sports to keep your mind off that itch. It's no use. The itch is all you can think about now. It grows and grows until everything you've learned regarding the importance of not scratching an itch goes straight out the window. It doesn't matter anymore. You need to scratch that itch. You fight hard, but it's too much. Even the smallest itch grows to become unbearable to the point where your entire being at that moment only exists to scratch that itch.

So yeah, I think it's worth it.

Catch me in in India next year.

Sunghoon Kwak