I'm having a boatload of books delivered to my door over the course of the next few days. After over a year of picking through the meager and overpriced English language selections available two hours in any given direction from my front door, I'm quite pleased with this. And resisting the urge to place a second 200,000+ won order until next month. One can only read so much at a time, no?
Life has settled down considerably and I still can't bring myself to make a nighttime appearance out on the bar scene (save for the short vacation down to Busan, of course, which was an obvious exception). Oddly enough, after convincing myself that just about nobody I know in Korea is worth the time of day (with a couple of obvious exceptions) and that I'm better off finally re-sorting my letter mailing schedule, some ten odd people have resurfaced out of nowhere. So I'm doing my best to stagger out little coffee dates here and there throughout my schedule, in a mild effort to keep some semblance of a social life alive and well until we reach the warmer months, when I'll no doubt be more enthusiastic about such things. Maybe. In the meantime, I'm spending the days doing my best with my feeble little American mind to begin to understand Korean history, pre-The-Forgotten-War, and making valiant (but small) efforts to improve my Korean.
Mostly, I hate not teaching. And I wasn't expecting two and half more weeks of it after the end of winter vacation. Sometimes I half-consider taking a year off to study full time in Korea, but then these little bouts come along and remind me that I'm useless to myself if I'm not on the other side of the desks at least some of the time in the classroom, these days.
I should have contacted home today, as yesterday (today, Texas time) was my grandfather's birthday. I didn't forget -- I just don't think I'd do well to talk to the family at the moment. That's hurtful and ugly behavior, and basically there's no excuse for it. But my family has forgiven me bigger things than this.
Spending so much time with other foreigners lately has put me weirdly back in touch with Reality in a way that I don't know quite what to make of at the moment. I've been sort of cut off, since Mike went back to New York, but now I look most forward to his little semi-daily emails. MJ Oppah is the only one really keeping me grounded in Korea Reality at the moment.
He quipped yesterday, while examining the various pages on Korean history I had open on my computer screen and my resulting forehead furrows, that he would have to read a few books to brush up on his own knowledge, so he can give proper guidance and we can talk together about it. He's eager to help in a non-threatening way that can be rare among any given population of people, when dealing with their own national pride or whatever you'd like to call it -- which is to say, not pushy or biased or weirdly invested. Which is good, because, for the time being, I'm pretty much done making exceptions based on the generous basis of "cultural differences" to keep someone who says something like (for example) women shouldn't smoke because they have to eventually have babies as a serious consideration for a staple position in my life.
Yesterday while he was explaining the recent tragedies he's been through, most of which are too personal to go into here, but which included (as a small part, believe it or not) the death of one of his (our) students, he told me that although he has many close friends he could have contacted to talk to about all of these things, for the past three days he hadn't been able to bring himself to do it. He said he didn't know how to start those conversations, and instead he had been carrying it all alone. I don't know what made him come out with it all suddenly to me, but I apologized to him that, when he finally did get to speak with someone about all of this, he had to do it in a foreign language. "I'm sorry that you can't speak to me in Korean."
I was still a bit whatever from the fact that what he had to tell me had me actually crying (which is something that some of even my dearest friends have never seen), and the look on his face when I said this made me realize that it caused more guilt than consolation. He searched for the words carefully and then replied, "It's easier for me to say in English anyway. I wonder why that is. Why is it easier to say in English?"
Because you're divorced from the meaning. Which is another reason why I'm sorry you can't speak to me in Korean. But I'm working on it. Just as fast as I can.