Woke up with my head full of thoughts this morning. It was the kind of sleep where you don't really sleep, but keep thinking while you lie there, even though your body's gone.
It's a sort of culmination of things, namely me always assuming at the start that things are less complicated than I know somewhere in my gut that they are. And for those of you who are going to read that sentence and think you know what it's obviously about, you're wrong. No one reading this knows what this is about.
What I woke up and realized this morning is that absolutely not one fucking thing is obvious anymore. And there are things going on with me that have necessitated a new kind of privacy, which has made moving to South Korea a much bigger change, and it has changed and is changing me, in a really fundamental, basic way.
I'm starting to see that I haven't been as grown up as I thought I was -- that maybe this year, these next few years, are going to see me actually move from being a child to an adult. Or that my definition of myself has always been wrapped up in the people around me, which I don't think is a bad thing, but that's changing as well. It's the privacy thing. It's the foreign country thing. Or maybe it's just some part of me realizing that I really am sufficient as a human being, on my own, for myself.
I have no idea.
I've been telling my students this week, as they start coming in more and more bedraggled as the semester really gets going, your brain can't store knowledge when you don't sleep. When we think of a lack of sleep, we think about the physical effects. But a few years back when we found out my brother was narcoleptic (which is a far more complicated disorder than the popular media makes it out to be), I did a lot of reading about the function of sleep.
Yes, sleep is the time when our body recharges. But the most important aspect of sleep is that our brain uses it as a sort of sorting and filing period. If you don't sleep, your short-term memory never gets converted to long-term. You don't ever really process your thoughts. You don't learn anything.
I blame that for the fact that I seem to have woken up this morning with a lot of things from the last few weeks (full of not enough sleep, or very restless sleep) finally moved from the first impression part of the brain to the part where I understand what those impressions mean. Or, to put it simply, clarity.
I'm no closer to understanding myself, or my situation(s). But it's a start.
Now. I'm sure everyone's had enough of that. You want the gossip, don't you?
Friday night was out with Mike, which turned into out with Mike and Small Town, which turned into a tour of bars in Incheon. Well. Two bars and a seriously proper nightclub. Bar no. 1 saw the return of Bicycle Shirt Guy from New Year's Eve, which was unbelievable. He still doesn't speak English, but he did manage to come over and say, "You... name.... Liz?" Neh. "You... boyfriend?" Pointing to Mike. No. "You .... me... uh.... dance! Christmas party!" New Year's Eve party, yes. "You... number... my phone." Yes, I know who you are. What I don't know is how you managed to remember both me and my name, considering the state you walked into that bar in that night.
Bar no. 2 had the waegookin standing out on the porch to smoke and serving as a kind of foreigner meet-and-greet for the entire neighborhood. I got a present -- a hideous little stuffed tiger/bear thing that some guys won in a game across the way. Then some business English friends were made and I impressed the hell out of Mike and Small Town, who were apparently at the other end of the bar whispering about how I was obviously going home with someone, by completely jedi mind tricking all of them into happily and willingly going straight home with each other instead. As Small Town said, they probably got back to the subway and suddenly realized we were all supposed to be heading to another bar together, and what the hell just happened?
"I thought you was on the pull, like..."
"Nah. I was working."
And that's why Mike, ultimately, loves me.
The nightclub was ridiculous and worthless at the hour we walked in, but worth it just to get a look at what the hell was going on in there. The place was crawling with employees who, every now and then, would appear at a table of women nearby and drag them off to some unidentified dark recesses. Eventually I realized they were dragging them to tables with men, or out onto the dance floor. I guess not enough of that goes on, organically, to keep shit happening in nightclubs in Korea.
Saturday was Chinatown with Mags and Small Town. There's not a whole lot to it, and it's eerily quiet for a Chinatown, but it was worth it for the sort of scenic walking value. Ended up in a small (and I mean small) restaurant full of ajosshi drinking soju and eating kimchee jjigae. Hi, I'm a Korean expat blogger.
Then out to meet the lovely Kel, and her lovely, lovely friends Willie and Suki (sp?) in Hongdae. Somehow before I had arrived they had ended up in a tiny hole in the wall with an ajumma and two ajosshi doing shots of soju, chugging Cass and singing karaoke. It eventually got to the point where it was definitely time to leave, or the evening was going to take a turn (toward what, I don't think any of us were sure -- but we all definitely got that impression) so we headed out in search of Pink Hole or The Pink Hole or -- well, this is typical, but we couldn't find it. One bar, two bars. Back at Nori, where the infamous Dion (not A-on, etc.) turned up not once, but twice. The second time, he brought Ken back, who seemed like a completely different person.
I find talking to the two of them sort of infinitely enlightening. Dion explained that he and Ken vanished into the sunrise last weekend because Kel and I had found other male companionship and seemed to be enjoying it, so it was the gentlemanly thing to do. He explained that, in Korean society, that's the way it's supposed to work. If the lady enjoys someone else's company, you should gallantly leave her to it. The not saying goodbye wasn't a slight -- it was a polite gesture, to not ruin the mood or cause a scene. In other words, he took it like a man.
I like talking to Dion about Ken, and vice versa. They're completely different personality types, but have all the love in the world for the kind of person the other one is. Both swear the other is the most genuinely lovely friend a person could ever hope for. Dion says Ken is a sort of "prince" -- absurdly popular with the girls, due to his good looks and guitar playing, his sort of quiet brooding seriousness. But that he is picky, and won't just be with a girl because he can. Ken later confirmed this, when I asked him about it, after he returned to the table with his tail between his legs, because a girl on the dance floor had refused to dance with him, saying he looked like he must have a girlfriend.
"It's a kind of problem for me!"
He went on to say that, although it is true that he has the ability to be with many girls, he's not really interested in that. He prefers a girl who has "abilities" -- who is not only kind, but also talented in some way, or smart. Looks are not what he's into. And while that's a really typical line to deliver in a bar, past 1 am, there was something in the seriousness of his face that made it seem not like a line, but almost a confession.
Ken says Dion is a friend first and foremost, and will always be there for you -- will always cheer you up or go out of his way to help with anything that he can. Both finish their monologues about each other with the infinitely endearing sentences, "He's my friend. That's my friend." And a big, proud smile.
I like talking to people about other people, in this way. They are the kind of things we usually only think about and never vocalize to anyone out loud. And to get inside of the admiration one person has for another is one of the things that continues to renew my faith in mankind.
Well, I think that's enough for now. Now I have more than my fair share of lesson planning to get on top of, before it's back to the real world (whatever that means) tomorrow.