1.3 Winter 2020

Desk Warming, Day 4

I declined lunch (in your face!) and wandered around for ten minutes before I decided to eat at a type of rice bowl fast food place. It turns out the older man running the small store knows English much to my surprise. He said he worked in Saudi Arabia for four years but has since forgotten most of his English since then. Having been run down by cold city folk I jumped on the opportunity to have small talk.

I asked him if he had children and we ended up talking for a while. He showed me pictures of his granddaughter and of some arrangements his daughter-in-law makes as a florist. Thank you, sir.

Today I worked on establishing this blog so I have an easier place to post these drabbles. My site got ten hits from Korea in an hour and I became mildly concerned that since the staff manager faces my computer he’s tracking everything I do.

The subway home provided some observations:

A few older men were chatting and another was listening to trot music on blast out of his Walmart style over-ear headphones and I sighed in relief. Finally some noise! Some interaction! I like standing near the designated old people seats on the subway because I’m comforted by their chatter. Everyone else is on their phone.

There was also a man holding the hand of his young teen son. The boy’s eyes were red and glazed over atop his white mask and the father had a very small rosary. I could see him touching each bead as he mentally recited Hail Mary. I imagine someone they love is in the hospital and I’m praying for them.

I met with my tutor this evening and felt a little dumb. And honestly this week has made me feel strange what with the office situation and seemingly unending semester. The office situation now that I think about it is a little reminiscent of the toxic corporate job I left which dredges up all kinds of feelings.

The hardest adjustment this month has been city life: The constant public transportation use, winter pollution, rat race mentality, and “negative politeness” culture of a city of ten million is becoming more of a culture shock to me than anything about Korea in particular. It’s really wearing me down especially hard this month. It’s been over six months since I even left the city.

All these overwhelming feelings crashed on me as I left the coffee shop where I had done my lesson. I pulled on my face mask and padded hood just before the tears came and I cried on the short but crowded walk back to my apartment. It was my first cry of the new year.

I miss people being up in my business so in times of stress now I just think about the elders in Jeju who were just the kind of folk I know and love best. (Don’t climb on those rocks or you’ll die! Are you American? How do I work this phone camera? Oh my, your ankles are cut up, you should wear socks.)

I need a vacation ASAP but have two more silent weeks of desk warming. To survive I’m dreaming of my little beach cottage stay.

I miss grass and birds and stars and trees. I’m so looking forward to moving out to the countryside this September!

Oh yeah, I’ve decided to move down south next year 🙂

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