Sunday, January 15, 2006

Beware the Ides of January!

Well, duh! I should have warned myself. It's no *wonder* I've been feeling so ornery, frustrated, cranky and, most of all, restless this weekend. It dawned on me as I sat in Starbucks on the second floor of my big Kyobo Books store at Jungangno: today is my 100th day in Korea. That's right, 100 days!

Well, "dawned on me" is not entirely accurate. I was in fact sitting there doing a little tally of the days: how many I'd been in country, how many I'd taught, how many I had left to teach, and how many I had left in country. I actually don't mind the number of days staying here; I'd stay here for a good long while enjoying myself immensely if it weren't for this job, and it was really the "teaching days" number I was after. But in my count I discovered that Sunday, January 15 was my Day 100.

One hundred days could be an even more significant number than 40 days! It is so amazingly neat, 100. Bold and round, 100 declares itself and 100 inserts itself into your consciousness; 100 is significant. We strive for 100. It is wholeness. Furthermore, it is a shift in the numerical landscape, from a two-digit sum to a three-digit sum. And if it's not the last time there is such a numerical landscape shift for me in Korea I will be quite surprised, as it is a good long while before 1000 rolls around (by which time I should be handily on my way to being a 3L!)

One hundred. It means 100 moons have journeyed across the Korean sky on my watch and 100 screaming trucks have cruised through my neighborhood of a morning blaring messages of commerce, community action, or maybe even, "Die, you Western swine!" for all we know. I have eaten 100 light (my word), insufficient (their word) breakfasts (fruit and bread with coffee or tea), 100 pathetic attempts at lunch(from Lotteria fast food cheese sticks to snacking on crackers) and 100 hard-won dinners of questionable vegetarian status. I have closed my eyes 100 times and laid down my head only to open them and recall myself to Korea.

This 100-day stretch is the longest continuous time I've been outside the U.S. It is also probably the longest stretch in years that I have not left a tip in a bar or restaurant (tipping is frowned on here) nor heard a commercial with a sing-songy jingle for some American product. Even on CNN International, Asia edition the English commercials are decidedly not sing-songy. And they tend to be for products of global business, with ethereal music or sitars. "Thai Air, smooth as silk to Moscow," a voice breathes. And while the American Forces Network provides me with my fill of insipid spots, PSAs and the like, there's no paid advertising. Just the umpteenth reminders that hypothermia is dangerous, terrorism is a threat, and human trafficking is wrong.

I once spent almost this much time outside the United States, that time I about didn't get back in. But I believe that, all told, that trip was 93 days or so. This 100 is a new world. Presidential administrations are judged on their first 100 days. Wars are fought in 100 days. From popular song charts to test scores, 100 is a monument to achievement and completeness. Now, I must pause to consider what 101 will bring.

1 comment:

DLawson said...

What can I say, I forced myself to start reading your blog and as I read more and more about your desire to go to law school I cannot sit silent anymore. You have always made life decisions by the seat of your pants without thinking them completely through. Law school is not something that can be chosen lightly. If you choose to go to law school it will close the doors and windows to all your other dreams. Forget about being a writer, forget about being a "human rights" lawyer once you incur that kind of debt. Law school will also not be the intellectually stimulating experience that you think it will. What it WILL be is a three year delay in having to face the reality of the real world. Sadly, that's why I think you are leaning towards it. Don't make that mistake!!