All thanks to flowers and spring

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All thanks to flowers and spring


These days, I have been extremely busy in my doctoral program since the spring semester began. It takes extra time and energy for someone in her late 50s to keep up with young graduate students, considering a declining memory and information-gathering capacity.

I wish I could devote all my time and energy to school, but I also have to lecture on international relief, development and cooperation, serve as the principal of the World Vision Global Citizenship School and give special lectures I promised.

There are also events related to my new book published in March. I color-code my calendar, and for the months of March and April, my schedule is filled with all different colors.

You may think I wouldn’t even have time to breathe, but I cannot live just working all day. I cannot, need not and don’t want to live like that. So I enjoy myself whenever I can. My experiences have taught me that no matter how busy I am, I can always find time to enjoy myself, and it is up to me to decide how I spend my day. It’s actually even more fun to find the time to play when it’s so busy like now. I review my tight schedule and find rare free times to enjoy myself.

How would you spend this precious time for leisure? We all have different ideas of fun, and personally, I like to enjoy nature. I am fascinated by the fresh air, bright sunshine, ever-changing flowers and trees and the beautiful sky. Whenever I can, I get out of the house. I usually go camping overnight at least twice a month, but this month, I went only once. But when I find four, five hours of leisure, I climb the Mount Bukhan trail. If I have two hours, I go to the small hill near my house. When I have half an hour, I take a walk around the school campus.

In the past couple weeks, the school campus has turned into a flower garden. It is the time for winter jasmine, forsythia, azaleas, magnolias, cornelian cherries and ginger trees. Soon, pears, cherries, royal azaleas, peonies and irises will bloom. The tree branches will become plump, and new leaves will sprout to turn the world a refreshing green.

I am relieved and relaxed as I walk among the spring flowers and trees. My stroll often becomes the best 30 minutes of the day. It is regrettable that some students don’t even glance at the beautiful flowers, looking instead at their mobile phones and taking even less time to appreciate nature.

So since last week, I decided to take my meetings with students out of the office. I thought the counseling would be more natural and sincere as we talk while appreciating the flowers. I was right.

Yesterday, I had a career-counselling session with a senior who wants to work in international relief, while her parents prefer she become a teacher.

She was talking for about 10 minutes in low voice, but suddenly, she raised her voice and declared, “Wow, the forsythia is already in full boom!”

“Well, it’s jasmine, not forsythia. They are both yellow, but jasmine have six round petals. Forsythia have four narrow petals.”

She replied that she had always thought they were the same.

We walked further down and she exclaimed again. “Here, the cornelian cherries are blooming.”

“They’re not cornelian cherries, but ginger trees. Look, they both have tiny yellow flowers, but the ginger trees have smooth branches and the flowers are right on the branches. But flowers on cornelian cherries have peduncles. There are cornelian cherries over there. Let’s go over.”

I picked some azalea flowers and handed them to her. When I tasted the petals, she seemed surprised.

“No worries. Azalea flowers are edible, and we even make pancakes with them. But you cannot eat royal azaleas. They have spots on the petals, and the peduncle is sticky. Let’s come out again when it’s royal azalea season, and you will immediately see the difference.”

“I’d love to. But how do you know so much about flowers?” she asked.

“It’s not me who knows so well,” I said. “You just never paid attention.”

As we walked along the blossoms, she shared her story about her family. For about 30 minutes, we laughed and cried and ended the meeting with a hug.

The meeting was a success, all thanks to the flowers and spring, and it was worth taking time off my busy schedule.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff JoongAng Ilbo, March 28, Page 25

*The author is a relief worker and a visiting professor at Ewha Womans University.

by Han Bi-ya

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