I've been a bit surprisingly sentimental a few times since arriving in Korea - not for the reason you might expect though. I simply can't allow myself to think too much or there would be a certain downward spiral and it would get ugly. I know this about myself.
A couple of times though I have let myself be affected by weird moments - both of them involving music and I thought I'd share and, you know... be all vulnerable and stuff.
The first moment happened a couple of weeks ago, and it involved the subway. There are many interesting things that happen on the subway - sometimes, a husband and wife team masquerade as a blind couple, wandering the cars and begging for change, only to emerge into the light a few stops later to open their eyes and count the change at street level. They give the legitimate pan-handlers a bad name, and there are legitimate (and truly unfortunate) ones here - believe me. Sometimes, someone will pray for the entire carload of commuters as shown in the photo from my last entry. Sometimes, someone will get onto your subway car selling all manner of goods - umbrellas, laser-pointers - what have you.
On one particular day a couple of weeks ago, Steph and I were on the subway and a gentleman came on with a cart full of children's CDs. I should have bought one. He was playing a song on a portable player - loud enough to advertise his goods without being intrusive. The song was "Puff the Magic Dragon" and I think I might have been seconds away from welling-up with tears before he got off at the next station and moved to another car. I don't think I have heard or thought about that song since the third grade. It brought me back, and every sentimental thought about childhood that could have possibly entered my head at that moment - well, did.
That's the sad side of me, but a permanent one I fear.
The second moment came a few days later when I tried a new class activity with one of my Junior classes. The exercise involves playing an English song for the class and handing them a sheet with the lyrics - only some of the lyrics are missing and they have to listen closely to the song a couple of times in an attempt to fill in the words - it's much harder than it sounds. It's also much harder than it sounds when the voice you are listening to belong to none other than Mr. Brad Roberts - lead singer of the Crash Test Dummies. It's pretty low, you see, and fairly difficult to decipher at times - especially for an ESL class.
So I found myself in the middle of a Korean classroom, surrounded by kids who were quiet (a rare thing) and intent on listening carefully to a song I had always enjoyed and admired the craft of... and then the lyrics struck me. The situation struck me. Looking at my Superman poster hanging in the classroom, I thought how infinitely cool it was to hear this Canadian band from back in the day, singing this song for the first time to these young and foreign ears. What was even more cool was hearing them discuss what the song meant afterward - what it means to decide not to do what you had the strength to do, and even what it means to despair: "And sometimes I despair the world will never see another man like him..."
After getting my emotional ass kicked in the last days prior to my leaving, I had tried really hard to not get all affected by anything that even bordered on sentimentality. But I reveled in this moment - even more than I did the subway song. What allowed me to do so was being able to walk between aisles of children listening closely to a sad song with their heads down and their ears open.
I was proud to have my sentimental mojo back. And I was encouraged to write about it after reading the writing of a friend from back home. Thanks, Collins.