On the weekend of the 14th and 15th November, most of the Waygook population of Jochiwon had disappeared to visit the DMZ on a culture trip. I wasn't able to join them as my second school needed me there. And, while, I'd have loved to have visited the DMZ, this weekend was a great one in terms of personal growth for me. How so, you might ask? Well, I went on a date! With myself. I guess I should clarify that asap, just in case!
I started as soon as I got off the bus. I went to Misoya,which is a Japanese chain restaurant downtown,and had some sushi and read "The Runaway Jury" by John Grisham. Eventually, I made my way home where I ignored the chaos of my home and plopped on the bed with a large glass of wine and some biscuits to watch "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug". I should take this opportunity to announce I am a HUGE Tolkien fan. I have read "The Hobbit" probably ten times and the LOTR at least as many times. I have also read "The Similarion", "The Children of Hurin" and a very long time ago I also read "Unfinished Tales", I think. It was a long time ago so I could be mistaken! I will also say that I did enjoy the LOTR movies. I felt Jackson, and the cast, captured how I viewed Middle-earth and, whilst there were flaws, overall it was a decent attempt. "The Hobbit" though, thoroughly frustrated me. I will still see the last movie but this is not "The Hobbit". I spent much of my time seething at the changes and the total underuse of the the maginificent Martin Freeman and, indeed, the main character of the story: Bilbo Baggins. Further, Beorn was the biggest feck up ever! He is nothing, visually like his literary counterpart, and his behaviour and character are incredibly different. He was one of the characters I had been most looking forward to seeing realised on screen and I was incredibly disappointed. I really felt that I could handle the stupid love triangle they have going on but Beorn was an atrocity!
Anyway, this post is not supposed to be a review of the movies but a story about my date so I will, with much reluctance, move on. In the morning I repaired to Plan B for Minty-Hot Chocolate loaded with cream and some honey bread. Similar to my first date, I dressed up in a nice dress, made my hair all pretty, slapped on some mascara and a pair of pretty earrings that I picked up in Vietnam. I continued reading Runaway Jury and I took the obligatory selfie at least five times.
Around 1pm, I made my way to Sejong City as I decided on an exploration day. I've been putting it off for more than a year and I really wanted to see what my city had on offer. I mostly kept out doors, spending time at the river and walking on the hills behind the apartments and schools. On top of one hill was a small excavation site. You could also go and sit on the roof of building that the hill was adjacent to. That was really nice and quite relaxing. Around 4pm, I decided I was getting hungry as no lunch made for a starving Maggie. I pulled my coats, scarves and bags together and proceeded to make my way to Mekong Thai for Nasi Goreng, some Vietnamese Cha Gio and the "scary" goal of this date - to have a meal without my phone or book to assist me.
Man, that was hard. I was trying to plan a discussion I was having with some friends the next day but my brain couldn't concentrate. It kept flicking about as the waiters, chefs and staff were at the table next to mine and kept staring over at me. Instead of concentrating on what I wanted to discuss, my brain kept saying things like "Oh, poor girl! No boyfriend" or "Does she have any friends?" I honestly have no idea how I survived and when I finally got my brain to concentrate it wanted to concentrate on NEXT year. Well, at least it helped me to come to a decision. A tough one but one that I had been debating for a while. As readers of this blog already know, I am leaving Korea at the end of this contract. Instead I will move home to Ireland to further my studies (hoping to do the CELTA) and prepare to go to Spain to complete the Camino. I also am going to do the Trans-Siberian Railway for two weeks. Well, at least that was the plan. My brain, once it calmed down, informed me that I would be jobless and I really couldn't condone going on that journey when I probably wouldn't be able to buy myself a cup of tea without borrowing money from my Mam. It was a really bitter truth pill for me to swallow. I really like gallivanting off and experiencing new and exciting things. And I love trains. My heart felt like it was broken but I realised, upon further reflection, it's not. I will get to do that amazing journey and I will be able to have that amazing adventure once I have another job and the Trans-Siberian Railway is going to be my first stop.
When I left and made my way home to Jochiwon, an overwhelming sense of pride overcame me - I rarely feel like an adult. I tend to feel like an 18 year old trapped in the body of a 30+ year old trying to make adult decisions and being expected to make adult decisions that I don't really know are the right decisions. But on that day, I felt like an adult. I felt mature, responsible and incredibly proud of choosing to follow my brain and not my heart. Growing up is hard to do but knowing that I made a smart decision to postpone a dream until I am financially stable is as a huge achievement for me.
The only thing that marred an otherwise lovely date was a guy that I met while waiting for the bus on the way to Mekong Thai. I wasn't sure of the time for the 620 and what the name of the stop would be to get for Mekong Thai so I was looking at the route for the bus when one of my fellow waiting passengers interrupted me to ask me where I was going. I told him the Lake Park and he didn't know where it was. I told him that was okay because I get this bus everyday, I just wasn't sure of the stop (I usually fall asleep the minute I get on the bus only waking when I reach my destination!). We got to talking and at first I thought he was a nice guy as he told me he was a student, living in Sejong and that his English was so good because he had lived in America as a child (disclaimer: he said that, not me...it wasn't as excellent as many other Koreans I've met) and that he was a pianist. I told him I love hearing the piano and then he abruptly changed topics to ask me if I'd ever been to America. I told him that I had and so he asked me if I was ever in Las Vegas. I told him no, only for him to inform me that Las Vegas is a very dangerous place. I told him I'd never heard that but assumed he was basing this on CSI (seriously, that show is on TV here all the time, it's a legitimate leap). He then informed me Las Vegas is dangerous because all the black people have guns. I couldn't believe my ears. My bus was pulling up as he made this outrageous sentiment and I quickly informed him as I got in line to board that I have many friends who are black and don't have guns. Of those friends, many frown on the overuse of guns in society as it is. He seemed taken aback and I would have liked to continue the discussion only he didn't get on the bus with me. I hope that I made someone realise that making idiotic statements that are not backed up by actual fact is a dumb thing to do especially when you do it to someone who knows more than you. Secondly, I really hope that I gave him pause and that he realises that make blanket assumptions that all black people are criminals is a stupid lie. I also hope that maybe he gets to meet some really great people of different races and backgrounds that challenge him to see the world through new perspectives and that someday he will challenge someone else's dangerous assumption.
So you might think I'm mad to have given up a bit of a dream in favour of financial stability but honestly, I really want to go for a cup of tea with my friends when I get home. I want to reconnect and be able to pay my own way to do so. I really miss them so putting off the Trans Siberian Railway, while difficult, is manageable on reflection. I feel like in one day I travelled so far that I a million times different than I was when I set out to Sejong. And that's a great feeling.
*Sorry this is so late I have been sick since the 23 of November - cold after cold after cold so I've been spending very little time doing anything but sleeping. I obviously never reached my date quota but that's okay there is always next year! I am planning one for the middle of January as I type! Until next time and a very Happy New Year to you all.
PS The title of this post is taken from The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony".