Sunday, June 27, 2010

Travelogue #59: It's Not Surreal. It's Real.



I'm sitting on a concrete ledge outside Sunae Station near the red-white McDonalds sign.

Please excuse the graphic imagery, but a light breeze is tickling my leg hairs. I hear the chicka-chicka crunch of skates; a twelve-year-old boy is gliding by me into the marble gloss of the Lotte Department Store. Then: the I've-got-some-place-to-be clip-clop of high heels- a young woman in a blue blouse making her way up the subway steps. This is a summer afternoon in Bundang, South Korea. It's gray, and it's busy.

I smell something baked, maybe bread from the nearby Tous Les Jours, the do-we-sound-French? bakery that's in a years-running turf war against Paris Baguette for who can be the Frenchest-sounding bread shop in Korea. Or maybe I smell something fried, from one of the ubiquitious Korean fried chicken joints that will first satisfy you and then roil your stomach into a red-sauced glaze. Now, five schoolgirls in curtainty black bangs are passing by and singing, "Annyong, annyong" like a playground melody. They are arm-in-arm.

I wonder if it's going to rain.

An older woman is wearing a fisherman's cap and a flowerprint shirt, embroidered with light pinks and dark greens. Her pants are very white. I'm looking at her and she's looking at me. She is Korean; I am not. But both of us are here.

Ten minutes ago I was walking through my old apartment building. The last time I'd walked its hallways, it was 4am on a cool October morning almost two years ago. I never thought I'd be back, but there I was in the lobby, which looked exactly how I'd remembered, save for a new clock atop the elevators. I saw a shadow of my reflection in the gold doors. Did I look older? Did I feel different? Kind of, I thought. Kind of.

Fifth floor, I stepped out to see a familiar face. Someone I knew, or someone who knew someone I knew. I'd seen this guy in friend's Facebook pictures but I couldn't remember his name. He's teaching where I had once taught, living where I had once lived.

"Hey, do you work at Leadersville?" I asked, knowing the answer but making conversation anyway.

"Uh, yeah, used to," he said, confused in a do-I-know-you? way. "But today was my last day."

"Do you know Chris?"

"Yeah," he said. "He lives down the hall." The someone who knows someone I know still looked confused.

"Cool," I said.

And that was that.

I walked towards where I remembered the laundry room to be. For some reason, I wanted to see if it was still there.

It was.




Postscript: I haven't been updating this blog weekly as I intended. The reasons are several: one, my institute has me working like a madman. Two, many of my experiences so far have mirrored the ones I tracked on this blog two years ago. I want to be careful not to rehash stories I've already told. That being said, if you are reading this because you're curious about making the leap to teach in Korea, I do plan to update my FAQ for 2010.

Thanks for reading!
Alex


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1 comment:

mikey said...

haha - you were on the 5th floor, met someone from leadersville, and didn't visit chris!? but went to the laundry room? how did you get past the tight security there, you maverick?

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