So the training is seriously and unequivocally pointless. I’m not going to dwell on it now though, as there are far too many other things to think about.
I had a week of huge ups and downs, punctuated by St. Patrick’s day in Seoul.
A huge dust-storm had travelled from China and for a while shrouded Korea and Japan in a saffron blanket. The dust didnt make it down to ground level, at least not that I could tell, but theres something mildly unsettling about looking up into the sky and wondering if Mars has decided to break orbit or not.
Cosmological thoughts were in fact going through my head at the time the dust really hit, mainly because I was by Seoul city hall, decked out in green and drinking all the free Guinness I could muster. The Irish Embassy had decided to fund an absolutely colossal piss-up (which was fine by me) and they took great pleasure in telling me to put my wallet away when I went to the bar. It was a bit like the “Better Than Life” game in Red Dwarf, except I wasnt dressed as an Admiral.
The dust came and went, we went to a really good restaurant in Itaewon (which I’ve heard is a rariety) and went to an expat bar where we all felt distinctly uncomfortable. I was cornered by two “lifers” (people who have clearly lived in Korea for too long) and they seemed to take great delight in telling me how my teaching experience would be so much better in Seoul.
“You teachin’ in Daejeon? Where the fucks that? Huh? Daejeon, my ass. You out in boonie country, bet y’all have to take the rickshaw to work…”
The above monologue (seeings as it was the lifer’s opening gambit) could only be described as yet another strange conversation with a westerner. Jakub, meanwhile, was caught in the tractor-beam of some Valley girl who’s only topic of conversation was money.
Kyle had it worst though; some huge guy who was in the Marines tried to take him back to his barracks. After the first round of tequilas he thought he must be joking, after the second there was some mild groping, after the third…
As we left I saw Kyle clinging to his girlfriend and using her as a dainty blonde shield, we’d had enough and were sorely in need of bed.
On the subway however, we got a nasty shock. A middle-aged Korean man took offence to our using public transport, he was shouting and pointing in an aggressive manner everytime we starting talking to each other.
We still arent sure if it was because two of our group had Korean ancestry but were westernised, or if he just hated my face. Either way, I took offence in kind and started taking the piss out of him. Who did he think he was anyway?
I felt a tug on my coat and could see that Ashley (a very nice Canadian girl who had made the mistake of dating me) was giving me the look that said “Stop being a prick.”
I tried, but as we left the train I found it hard to resist blowing him a quick kiss, his eyes looked like they were about to pop out of his head.
So, after a hectic weekend which left a hole in my pocket but some fond memories, I said bye to Ashley and co and jumped on my bus home. It was at this point I had a wobble.
Wobbles come when you least expect them, especially when you’re under stress and in a new environment. I’d not had time to grieve over Grandad’s passing away as it happened so soon before my relocating, occasionally though these feelings blindside you and they hit harder than you expect.
So, with a mix of tiredness, residual grief and Eva Cassidy on my i-pod, I couldnt help bursting silently into tears at the back of a bus full of old ladies. I put my sunglasses on and pretended I was asleep, it came in waves and when I felt I was done, I tried to sleep.
A faint tap on my arm made me start, it was a little old Korean lady (and Korean old ladies run the country) holding a pack of tissues. She had an expression of confidentiality on her face, the kind of face that was saying “I wont tell anyone else what a pussy you are”, so I wiped my nose and drifted off into a fitful nap.
Arriving back home and facing a week ahead where my confidence was so low, I realised one thing that gave me cause for optimism: I’ve come so far, I can keep going, and I will.