I wanted a pithy title to sum up the way in which things feel after three months in South Korea, but all of them were contrived…and completely crap.
Three things that have changed:
I have been guilty of de-Anglicising my speech to suit the pervading American/Canadian market that I seem to spend the majority of my time with. This might come as a shock to them as I am often accused of ‘infecting’ them with British idioms and phrases (you’ve not heard bliss until you’ve heard a Canadian say “bollocks”.)
Wobbles have almost ceased to be part of my life. I have managed to keep my blubbing to the correct context: whenever I stub my toe, spill a beer or watch “The Land Before Time.” In its place, anger has taken over. The third and fourth month is the ultimate make or break for how your attitude pans out, I believe; there are people here who are fantastic teachers and are far better than me and there are some who have little experience and perhaps find the day-to-day frustrations more than they can handle. The way I see it: we all end up in the same place, eventually. The community we have in Daejeon is great, though I often compare my lot to others I know who are in smaller cities and think that their ready-made support group is a little more at hand than ours. It is definitely a case of swings and roundabouts.
The weather: I come from one of the world’s weirdest climates but Korean weather has so far baffled me in a way that is usually reserved for Sudoku and Ashley’s directional disability. The humidity is only just starting, and I’ve begun to melt.
I’ve got better things to write about though, so I’ll let you imagine me sweating like one of Kim Jong Il’s food-testers (I mean, he has to have them, surely?) while I mention some other interesting developments.
In other news: I became a runner. It turns out I was one anyway, but I’m lazy and work better as part of a team. One day I started running with Dan and never looked back (well, except one time where we were sure one of us had stepped in dog-shit.)
Sometimes though, the best moments are the ones where you are totally on your own:
A run to the World Cup Stadium takes me about fifteen minutes, all I can hear is traffic and the sound of my own feet. When I turned into a complex nearby the stadium however, I feel like I’ve put my head underwater, it becomes mute and still.
It was a roasting-hot day, and the evening was proving to be only a tiny bit less ferocious. Sitting down, I stretched my back out by leaning far back enough so that my head was in the relative cool of the shade while the rest of my body was still in the rapidly-setting sunlight.
I think I may have fallen asleep briefly, because when I came to the rest of my torso was in shadow. Sitting up, I could see that the once-empty athletics track was awash with gaudy colours.
They were people, running. Or so I thought; they had a ghostly grace to their stride which made them look as if they were almost gliding down the straight parts of the track with the velocity and accuracy of a cluster of neon-clad Exocet missiles. It was at this point I realised they were all on rollerblades but travelling in a train like speed skaters. In unison, they turned and waved at the short, short-wearing foreigner, it was bizarre but peaceful.
Later that evening I decided that I was overdue for a bit of grocery shopping. Don’t panic: I try not to blog about needlessly boring things if I can help it. I get murderously angry at the waste of screen-space that is out there:
Totally Awesome Blog Entry Number 43: “So, like, today I went to the Lotte Mart to buy milk, I like skimmed, but they only had semi-skimmed. I asked the chick at the counter if they had any skimmed but she said no. So I bought semi-skimmed. Didn’t taste as good…”
What happened on MY trip to the Lotte Mart was that I once again neglected my brain at the entrance. I bought lots and lots of random crap and realised after paying for it that I had managed to snooker myself into not having a means to carry all the shopping home again (this is not the first time, I would refer to “How Not To Shop” for details.)
Desperate times called for desperate measures, and a lot of charm: I approached the attendant and, with a medley of gesticulations and sound-effects, tried to communicate that I would like to take the cart home with me (seeing as my flat is opposite five lanes of traffic, but easily accessible) and then return it once I’d emptied it.
She seemed to understand, and by this I mean that she nodded and smiled wildly with the air of someone who has just been cornered by a man wearing months-old clothing and professing that he’s her long lost wombat-cousin. I went to leave with said cart and she suddenly commands me to stop. I tried again to communicate that I’ll be back, somehow managing to weave in a bad impression of Arnold Swarzenegger as I do so but she still thought I was attempting some very sad and minor grand theft auto with one of her prized red trolleys.
I then took off my bag and showed her that it contained my laptop and phone, and that leaving it with her would be a decent safety deposit for me to come back. Her eyes lit up as she briefly assumed that I was trading these items for her silence, then she realised my game and sullenly pointed me towards the door.
The elation I felt was short-lived: the surrounding area of Lotte Mart is equipped with a perimeter of bollards that are just too tight to squeeze a trolley through. I tried to go back but the incline was enough to make such a task quite cumbersome. Frowning and looking around again I saw an opening, just enough for a trolley to fit through.
As I went over it the wheels suddenly became stuck to the earth. There was a huge metal plate which acted as a runway for this small path and it was equipped with a strong magnet. Doggedly, I dragged the trolley over and set off over the crossing (which still had ten seconds left) at a canter.
My inner monologue was whooping hysterically as the trolley’s light metal frame cavorted across the concrete terrain: “I’ve done it, I’ve broken free, into the unknown. No barriers contain me, there’s no law governing me. I’m James Dean, I’m Steve McQueen, I’m a fucking nutter!”
I arrived at my apartment without realising that my new vehicle wasn’t made for high-speed getaways across main roads and the lovely bottle of stout I’d purchased was leaking over my grapes and a pair of new socks. I returned the trolley, it coughed out my 100 won coin in the process and I realised with a trill of gay laughter that the attendant was nowhere to be seen. In her place was a large man who looked like one of the extras in “The Big Boss”, he could have eaten her and then assumed her floor-spot and I think nobody would be the wiser.
He looked at me with the thousand-yard glare and then gave a maniacal grin as he whipped my bag out from behind his back, handing it to me as if it were a Faberge-egg on a velvet cushion. He bid me goodnight and I trotted home with the sunset glowing in my face, and the knowing look of a man who had mortally wounded an innocent trolley by improper use.