Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Excerpt From the Save Bill Kapoun Facebook Page

soundtrack: hit play and start reading.
Scroll down. Please. Seriously -- the images with the song are . . . not related. But "Send Me On My Way" by Rusted Root is one of the best road songs I know, and more appropriate to the tone of the passage I'm posting than another sad song.

Bill (or Will) Kapoun was the English teacher in Seoul who was hospitalized after an apartment fire and later died from his injuries. These words are from the Save Bill Kapoun Facebook group: Bill's sister, Laura posted some of Bill's writings on the site, as a kind of tribute and thank you to those who have (and still are) helping Bill's family. I, and a lot of the other expats in Korea, have gotten kind of involved in this guy's story; he's been on my mind all week.

While the inciting event is a terrible tragedy, it's kind of beautiful to see such an outpouring of concern for a fellow human, and it's really restored my faith in the expat community in Korea, which can sometimes come across as a bunch of privileged (predominantly) whiteys pointing condescending fingers at the flaws in Korea's culture as a way of dealing with culture-shock (all the while getting paid handsomely by the same ones whom we judge and criticize) and then sometimes taking aim at each other instead, for variety. I'm guilty of it too.

Anyway, seeing this kind of communication reminds me why we're overseas to begin with, and it's a refreshing look at that so, so human search for meaning:

excerpted from the Save Bill Kapoun Facebook Group, written by Bill (or Will) Kapoun, posted by Laura Kapoun.

Preach it, Bill.

"...The semester before I went to Ireland I had been living the life of a typical frat guy in a typical American college and was dealing with my first serious break-up. Going to Europe was nothing like what I had expected. I thought I was going to be partying and meeting girls all the time. I thought I would be taking the life I had been leading in America to a new level. Instead I started a completely different life. I met almost no girls during those five months, I had almost no friends and I had almost no fun. At the end of that time I started reflecting on my entire life, on my past and on my future and I realized that there were many parts of it that were not at all how I had planned or how I wanted them to be. I saw large chunks of my earthly days completely wasted, unappreciated and unused and it sickened me. I started writing about it. My writing was then immature as was my outlook on my life. I do not claim maturity or ability in either life or writing now, but I see myself going in the right direction in both attempts. When I first started travelling I spent a few days walking around capital cities with a stupid look on my face and a guide book in my hands. Today I spent my morning digging for clams in a mud bank on the Algarvan coast of southern Portugal before spending my morning trying to sell tickets to go dolphin sightseeing. Afterwards I went on a hike to collect almonds, oranges and sage to cook the mussels I collected off the shore (mussels are much easier to find than clams), which I cooked on a hotplate in my rented room which overlooks the bay of a small fishing town. So I have come a long way, as a writer, as a traveler and as a person. Or at least I hope. . . .

"That was life, when I wrote that. I was really living. Despair is life, pain is life. . . . Happiness is life, laughter is life, there are so many kinds of life, but I, like so many of us, did hardly any living, instead I spent most of my time looking forward, always anticipating, one day, yeah, one day, if I just keep waiting, planning, one day, I'll be happy, I'll be living.

". . . In retrospect, we remember, we give credence to our waiting, proof that living life is possible, but if we are truthful to ourselves, we remember, most of those past days were either days we had wished had gone sooner at the time, or were just the beginning of the list of days hoping.

"It wasn't until I started traveling that I realized that not only does life not have to be that way; it isn't meant to be that way. . . . The natural world we spent most of existence alongside, already physically distant becomes emotionally even further when we don't celebrate and enjoy it.
. . .I have become a better person by seeing the world; there is much more that I hope to see and experience, but above all, I hope that by sharing my experiences, others will feel compelled to push themselves; and be reborn into a world without limits, where everything is possible and the pursuit of the new and beautiful takes the place of security and seclusion.

"On its most superficial level traveling allows us to see and discover new and beautiful things, on a slightly deeper level it allows us to know more about our neighbors in the rest of the world, which is one of the things America needs the most right now, but at its deepest level the greatest gift of traveling is the personal journey that allows us to see our own likes and dislikes, passions and perversions, history and future, under a completely different light. Only then can we be truly satisfied for; truly, many will shed a tear when we pass from this world, but besides our nearest loved ones, our days on this earth are quickly forgotten. Few will remember us a year later. The things we do, the attainment of the goals we spend so much time striving for, all mean little beyond the here and now. That is why, when I die, all I hope people to say of me is he lived life. The good, the bad, he took it all in, and relished it. Yes, he lived life for life. Which is how we should all live our lives, never letting a precious moment slip by.

William Kapoun

Enough said. Thanks for that, Bill.


Remember: you can still help his family with the huge hospital bills.

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