After all of these years I have been living abroad and travelling I cannot really give you a good answer as to why I have begun now and not when I was doing something interesting. Going to Chile? Most of the world would probably enjoy reading some white guy's stories about crazy parties and life in Viña del Mar, or Valparaíso, Chile. Even going to Asia, for the two years and two months I lived in Seoul, South Korea, 대한민국 as they call it, I would have had tons to write about yet the idea was a much more recent revelation.
Chile made a lot of sense to my friends once they found out I was going but this was not so true for Korea. I searched through some of my notes from years before when I had written some things on facebook and realized that I had mentioned the possibility of going to Asia and teaching English. That made me feel better since I feel impulsive even when I should probably be weighing decisions out a little better... I mean, it's life!
Last night I was listening to music by a girl named Yozoh (요조) who I found out about in Korea at my favorite coffee shop, well, I had a couple, so I don't want to go making anyone think I love their shop more than another... I mean, people are sensitive... My favorite two were most certainly Snail's Coffee and Jo & Bean, which were located near Seoul National University Station (서울대입구역)... At Snail's I would spend a great deal of time reading and drinking coffee and I really grew to love the owners who were such lovely people. They are a very young couple, about 30 or so, and they are to be married this week and I haven't talked with them for two months. They are probably wondering how my wife and I are doing but we haven't called them! Sorry, guys! Back to the story... So I was listening to that girl sing a few cute songs that I originally heard while I was drinking coffee and it took me back to Korea. It reminded me of those feelings that were so clear when I was there at the beginning but seemed to disappear as I grew accustomed to living there.
Does anyone in this world understand the feeling of being alone in a country, far far far from home, and enjoying the overwhelming nature of the surroundings, and that sense of wonder because it's not altogether unfamiliar but it is new for the time? I was in Chile for 5 weeks originally, with UNCW (University of North Carolina at Wilmington) and a fantastic professor named Valerie Rider. If you ever have the chance to meet her for find out more about her I can assure you that she is one of my favorite people on this planet. I must have had great luck with Spanish teachers, even from high school, I had a very young, enthusiastic teacher who had very exciting ideas and ways to teach us the language. Anyway, when I was there it was the first time I did many things--not all of them good--but it is what it is since it is all in the past. Everything I did left a very distinct taste in my mouth and by the time I had finished up my short stay I had no desire to leave. Of course I had to come home and I later returned for a year. I really mean to say that I felt this before. I did it in Chile and it changed the way I viewed every single thing I had ever seen or thought about from that time forward. It was one of the most fantastic experiences and after I learned to speak Spanish it threw me into another world of opportunities which I could have never contemplated before.
That's out of the way. It was my first few months in Korea and I generally just left work as soon as my classes were finished, which was generally between 5 and 7pm, and set off to walk around the city. I would eat dinner as cheaply as possible because I had made some poor financial decisions (no pun intended) and for a long time did very little that cost money. I built a computer and that took almost all my available money. I guess it was worth it! After dinner I would just take off by myself and walk until I got tired and then try to find my way back home. I used to walk behind my house close to the Gwanak Government Building (관악구청) and head towards Shillim (신림) I believe it was... Needless to say I got very lost one night and was scared because I didn't really have enough money to pay someone to take me back! Haha... I did find my way back home eventually and made sure not to go quite that far after. I really enjoyed those long walks. I would walk and since I am ADD I like to walk fast and look all around at anything bright or shiny since they grab my attention. I was in bed last night and I heard Yozoh and it brought back all of those times when I was new in Korea, when I had only feelings of wonder and love for the country and had really no desire to ever feel anything but that... It was before I met my wife and had learned much Korean and didn't know my way around town. I was such a newbie and that feeling you get when you think that everything can be done and seen, when you have no obligations and no one to answer to... Not that this is all good, but it really has a certain "feel" to it now that I am reminiscing.
When I was in Chile I had dated a few times and you always have to ask yourself: "Where do I see this going? How will this affect my life if I continue down this path?" and things like that... It always had to be answered and the way you live because you are contemplating the future is very different than the way you would live if you simply asked yourself: "Does this feel good?" Haha... I really hate that mentality... That whole, "OH, but it feels so good!" and it somehow absolves us of all our responsibility (in our own minds).
This time of my life in Korea, walking the streets, was very unique--because of where I was in the world, and also because I had left everyone and everything and was largely alone yet surrounded by millions in an Asian New York. I walked up and down streets with people staring at me, smiling if I could, looking for coffee shops, wondering if I would meet my future wife in Korea... Hoping, wishing... All of that anticipation and it's hard to just dismiss it as being young and crazy. I was 24 for heaven's sake! Later on in Korea I had very different feelings which weren't just simply soaking it all in and learning the language... I grew to hate so many things about the culture and I think I could have done great damage if I had written with much seriousness at that time. I'm back and while I have not completely given up my feelings of anger and frustration I felt in Korea, very often, I can say that I am remembering more of the simple times... The times when I could have done anything and every person that passed by was an opportunity to learn and my future was so moldable. Now, of course, I am married and back with my family at home until my job works out and we're a bit anxious to see something that resembles action and adventure... This is all beside the point really. The timing of my starting this whole journal of times past and times to come yet is probably better than I can imagine since I will likely throw a much more positive spin on my time in Korea. Ironic timing! It's also now that I have time to write since I'm not fighting tooth and nail with her parents to bring her back to North Carolina...
Music has power to take us back to times past and it really brings with it a wave of emotions that are more than we're really able to process when we hear it... I slept on it and I still had all of this to write... I guess we all carry reservoirs of emotions like this and it's interesting to process it all when it comes out.