Friday, January 20, 2006

Intrinsic Impossibility

Something strange happened on the way out of work Friday evening. Perhaps the mere act of venting to the so-called blogosphere made it happen ("Things I Hate," a few days ago). Anyway, I was shocked. As I left the Ding Ding Dang building, which I do by exiting through double swinging glass doors onto the sidewalk, I stopped just in time to avoid being hit by flying spit. A man who was standing in a group of three to the right of the doorway and who had his back to the doors had just turned and let fly. It therefore sailed right across the doorway at about my eye level, and as I stopped in my tracks, then gritted my teeth and moved on, my usual "Oh, that's so gross" exclamation was pretty much involuntary this time. I mean, it really was right in my face, albeit accidentally. (Lest you think that lets him off the hook, if there weren't so much spitting in the FIRST place then such accidents wouldn't happen.)

Well, the shocking thing was that the man immediately realized what had happened! and he apologized! in English! A triumvirate of surprises! I was so blown away that I sort of mumbled, "That's OK" and walked on shaking my head, asking myself if I'd really just heard what I thought I heard.

And so the 15th Week comes to a close. Exactly 15 weeks ago I was sitting in Boston's Logan Airport contemplating my imminent departure. I had completed my frenzy of jettisoning items to get my bags down to 50 pounds apiece (although I argued that since I went through Tokyo I should have fallen under the "flights to and from Japan" rule of 75 pounds per, but whatever United) and released them into the airline's care. You may recall that the airline liked my bags so much they kept them for two extra days. I sat in the chairs just that side of security and I tried to comprehend what was happening, but it really hadn't hit me yet at all. Not to mention that I was so tired. The rush to pack up and store my life had been madness. "Imagine no possessions..."

And now I'm here. Just - here. I'm sure that my blog of late has left the impression that I am dissatisfied with my Korea experience. That is not entirely accurate. In fact, I am so delighted to be here so much of the time that I think I forget to mention it; it becomes one of those things you take for granted, you know? We always seem to remember to complain but not as often do we note the things for which we are grateful.

The mere act of living abroad is profoundly satisfying. I cannot overstate the importance I place on experiencing different places. This goes for living in different places within the U.S. as well. It makes you more interesting, well-rounded, and wise. It is just better. I have a hard time respecting people who have lived in one place their entire lives. I eye them warily, no matter how perfectly nice they seem.

The fact that my school is loopy, frustrating, exhausting, racist, and just generally logic-defying can be overlooked. Or at least contended with. It's a job. I mean, if it's a choice between my previous job that made my head spin (even the lure of two to three glorious store opening trips per year couldn't keep me in that Cambridge store), and this one, I'm happy to be in this one because of the experience of which it is a part: being in Asia. Would I do this forever? Emphatically, no. But that's also partly because now that I'm here I know how to find a better gig, so if I were to re-up to teach another year in Korea, I would leave Ding Ding Dang behind and never look back.

But I very much doubt that I'm going to teach another year in Korea. Part of me fervently wishes I had done this earlier, because if I were in my twenties like a lot of these foreign teachers I meet, I am certain I'd be doing China next year and Thailand the year after that, or some such thing. However, turning 30 does things to a person. It may have been part of what made me reach my escape velocity from B_____. And it makes me have to get my self to law school. No more delays. That's my current mindset.

(Random tangent: I would like to point out that, rest assured, I may be in Korea but I will be able to participate in the delightfully silly ritual of going to 31 flavors on my 31st birthday this May, because there are about three Baskin Robbins per capita here.)

And the weekends, the weekends are just wonderful! Even though I am on a severe budget, and won't really have much carefree cash flow until April's paycheck, thanks to the wonderful world of health care and COBRA costs, I am able to see places reasonably cheaply and learn about Korea and entertain myself and search my soul.

(ed. note: With the glorious benefit of almost three years' hindsight, I offer up the following revision of what I originally wrote: What made me unhappy on any given day was my stressful, desperate, constant wish that that miserable ass who deceived his way into and out of a relationship with me (not to mention my bank account) would make good on his promise to come visit/be in Korea with me. It's true -- that's the only thing at the end of the day that made me restless, agitated, sad, or regretful. (Thanksgiving week freak-outs notwithstanding -- those are just part of the fun!) It was really, really hard to be so far away and want to be with him. Those of you who know me know I am loathe to say such things, and I even avoided saying that for all the world wide web to read for a while over there because in some twisted way I thought it makes me look weak, or something. But the really weak thing was me not trusting my gut, and when he pulled some bullshit letting him lie and connive his way out of it. It shames me that his presence taints this blog at all. I might just remove every reference. He doesn't deserve to be here. But the motherf**ker owes me money, so I'll keep some evidence around of that, I suppose. -- 8/2008)

I really wish I could know what this experience would be like if I weren't seeing it through the prism of trying intensely to reach him, each and every day. But I will never know that. "And now I think of having loved and having lost, you never know what it's like to never love, and who can say what's better...?" -- indigo girls, 'fare thee well' Of course that runs through my head.

Speaking of Indigo Girls, I must say that yesterday after having "It's Alright" running through my head all day (as well as occasionally bursting forth from my mouth), I was so happy to go home and play Shaming of the Sun and that track in particular over and over. I can't believe I didn't have a CD player for my first month and a half here. Almost two months, actually. I was going to wait until getting paid in December to buy it, too, and I couldn't. I had to get one and it made my last eight days or so before the December check ridiculously budgeted, but it was worth it. Besides, who needs to eat, right? Especially here! The way I spend money has entirely changed being in a place where the food does nothing for me.

Speaking of *that* I do believe I erred in going out with some people for Japanese "okonomiyaki" on Wednesday night. I was willing to suck it up and eat meat -- I do on occasion here to avoid starving to death -- to procure some cheap, plentiful, tasty food with my friendly new acquaintances, but I'm now pretty sure it had seaweed. It was Japanese, after all, the one country that might cause me more culinary problems than Korea. (Might - the jury's still out.) It couldn't have been much seaweed, thank goodness, or perhaps it was a different strain that doesn't give me hives and a rash, but I did get sick, and I have had that telltale two-day headache plus a swollen hands and shakiness. Oh, well. At least it wasn't a bad bout. But it does reinforce my belief that there's so very little for me to eat here.

Anyway, back to the psychodrama. It doesn't help when I'm sitting there minding my own business, reading a little War and Peace, and I come across lines like: "Never had love been so much in the air, never had the amorous atmosphere made itself so strongly felt in the Rostovs' house as during those holidays. 'Seize the moments of happiness,' it said, 'love and be loved! That is all that is real in the world--all else is folly. It is the one thing we are intersected in here!'" --p. 405

Come on, people! Give a girl a break, here!

All right, enough blather. I'm off to check out a restaurant/"brew pub" I've heard about that is said to be frequented by foreigners. It's in a hotel, so that is likely true, but I will believe the "brew pub" part when I see it. Those are hard to come by here in Korea!

Oh, I think I forgot to mention that Ding Ding Dang is moving upstairs. We have been occupying the second floor of our building and now will be on the third floor, effective Monday. We will have a shiny, new, paint-smelling, possibly asbestos-leaking workplace with new "desk" arrangements and big windowed classrooms and a fresh start. The remodeling of that floor has been going on for a while but I never count on these things happening in a timely fashion. However, it's now official and real. We all took our things up to place them on our new tables tonight. You see, we don't really have desks. We share classrooms that we rotate through during the different periods, and in the staff rooms we have tables that are divided into small areas at which we sit. In the new seating arrangement I am on the end of a u-shape, and there is definitely more space around the chairs than in our current stacking on top of each other. I will sit by the new guy, the English teacher who allegedly arrives in a week to ten days. I am quite eager for him to arrive, because I am completely sick of covering the classes that will soon have his name on them!

OK, completely exhausted, over and out.

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