Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back to Before

I'm going to take a break from writing about school today to talk about something else.

I live alone right now - for the first time in my life, actually. I moved away from home later than I had expected to and I had the great fortune of being able to live with two different sets of amazing room mates. I miss them all dearly, and do my best to keep in touch with them though many have also scattered across the globe.

My first two weeks in the new apartment have been grand. Living alone is a change, but in some ways it's a welcome one. As many before me can attest, being on your own just feels right in a way that few things do. On a weeknight, if I want to consult a map of Seoul, make some spaghetti, iron a shirt, do some laundry, go for a walk, have a beer, watch an episode of The West Wing, check-out the hickey scores, read a few chapters, prep a little for class, write a few emails, write a blog... well then, by gum - that's just what I'll do. In fact, it's what I did tonight.

Still - there's something about living with another - be it a room mate or someone closer that also feels right in a way that few things do. It feels good to know that when I open a door, there will be the familiar smells of someone's cooking, a hockey game (live or X-Box) on the TV, or some music playing just loud enough for me to know that someone's there.

Though nobody's living with me, I've been quite fortunate to have met some really good people through the SMOE training at the beginning of the month. The nice thing about our placements is that I now know the better part of the 160 some-odd new teachers who joined for this semester. It's also good that they are all scattered throughout Seoul - it gives us a reason to travel and a ready-made excuse to explore unfamiliar territory - or, in my case, familiar territory that I just haven't seen in a while.

Some people may be pleased to know that I've resisted a certain temptation. Last year, when new teachers came it was tops on my list to be very outgoing - show them around a bit - if only to get them oriented to the subway and roughly how to get-around etc. I felt that if I were a person new to Korea (which I was in the not-so-distant past), I too would want a helping-hand.

The flip-side of this of course is that fact that, as wise Uncle Ray once said, it's sometimes better to just discover these things for yourself. One girl who is part of a group I've spent some time with lately was keen to take some of us to Myeong-dong. She said she discovered it on the weekend and would love to show us around. Hell, why not? It is a place I've been to perhaps 20 times, but it's an old favourite and it's always interesting to see it through the eyes of those who are new to it. Like I said, I resisted the temptation to play tour guide. It would be more fun the other way.

I know this because I had two old friends play tour guide in a more practical sense this past Sunday. It was a bit of a long weekend - starting with a rushed trip to COEX after work to check-out Watchmen (there will be a review soon I hope), a dinner meet-up with some friends in my area on Saturday, and then a trip down memory lane on the 5100 hundred bus to Suwon - the city south of Seoul where I lived last year.

I think I would have been more nostalgic if I hadn't have been fighting a cold. As it was though, it was still pretty thick. It's a trip I took countless times last year. This time though, I was taking it from quite far away. All-told, to get to Suwon from my area in North Seoul, the trip was just over 2 hours, but only 1 3/4 hours on the way back - go figure.

I was met in Suwon by a very patient couple of friends that I taught with last year. Chris and Jenn are both from Ontario (Kitchener, I believe) and they were two of the nicest additions to our teaching team last year. Jenn has recently taken-over the job of head-teacher at my old hagwon and Chris has been working extra hours on weekends as the school tries to combat sagging registration by running kindergarten classes on Saturday mornings and afternoon. Somehow, they both found time to welcome me back to Korea, Suwon style - taking me to a K-League game between the Suwon Bluewings and Jeju United.

The Blue Wings are actually quite a big deal here. They are perennial favourites, though they've had a rough start so far this year. For Chris and Jenn, this was their third match, but a first for me. Come to think of it, it was my first professional soccer game.

It was a blast. Chris and Jenn are no strangers to beer so we enjoyed ourselves despite the loss. The game was close (Jeju won 1-0), but there were some close calls right in front of us. The stadium wasn't full, though it has been for higher-profile games. The Suwon World Cup Stadium is the site where South Korea knocked Italy out of the World Cup in 2002 - it's truly hallowed ground here.

The atmosphere was fantastic. We sat in the second half attacking end with the hard-core Suwon supporters and had a great time. There were flags everywhere - some with Che Guevera on them (?), and there was a constant buzz of song and chanting. It's something I would gladly pay another 10,000 won ($8.50) for.

After dinner, we met-up with Naomi - perhaps the most precious person in all of Korea - for dinner. It was so good to see her, and to spend some time with old friends who are still here.

I like my time alone, though I know I need to balance it. I've been fortunate so far. There are many good people that are still here, just got here, or have been here for a long time. I guess I'm not nearly as "alone" as it can seem sometimes. It's good to have options.

Tomorrow will likely be another challenging day at school - the toughest is trying to teach when I'm feeling this shabby, but I've got things to look forward to outside of the school realm as well:

1) Picking-up my ARC card tomorrow afternoon which will allow me to get my cell phone hooked-up - always a good thing to have and especially here.

2) Heading to Seoul Land with free tickets from my recruiter. Dee will be joining me for a free stroll, maybe a couple of coasters, and some fireworks. It won't be Everland, but hey - what is?

3) Perhaps heading into Seoul to audition for an ex-pat theatre group. There's nothing really in the script for me, but what the hell - it'll be nice to meet some theatre folk while I'm here.

4) Oasis. My friend, Johnny, facebooked me with an offer to join him and some friends in the FRONT ROW at Oasis next Wednesday here in Seoul. I will have to add it to the list of amazing concerts I've seen in this city. Can't wait - too bad it's not on a weekend though.

5) Heading out to Sanbon to hang with Ian, Bonnie, and my favorite fellow Mukmuk fanatic. I am living alone right now, but having them here makes some things come full-circle.

Lots to look-forward to after work, and enough to look forward to while I'm at school. Right now it's just about getting over that hump of learning - lots of it. More on that later. Right now, I'm just grateful for friends.

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