13 August 2008

The Imperceptible Fade Into Familiarity

I am beginning to settle in now and although the days are becoming pleasant and comfortable, it is kind of sad to see the newness of the place and the excitement of the early days fade into familiarity. The street scenes that used to captivate me are becoming part of the everyday world. Some of this has to do with my growing knowledge of the Korean language. All of the million signs here used to advertise the exotic and the mysterious in my imagination. Now I see just pool halls and massage parlors.

That said, every time I leave the house to go out I still feel a sense of adventure. A friend on vacation told me the Korean expression "EH" or "everyday holiday." Jourdan and I have adopted this as a motto. It is similar in meaning to "don't worry, be happy," and it fits when you are an expat in situations that are at times a little too surreal for the newness to remain thrilling.

Last night I took off from work and went down to the college neighborhood around KSU to meet Jourdan. He has turned out to be a pretty cool person to hang out with. He can't drink much because of his health problems so he is inadvertently a good influence. I was to meet him at seven at a Starbuck's near the subway that is a standard meeting place down there and I got off at five so I was an hour and a half early. I got a mango-passion fruit smoothy and settled down in a window seat with a book, half reading, half people watching.

Just a note on Starbuck's, which I hate and you should, too. I was sitting there for about a half an hour and I began to have a sharp pain that started in me buttocks and radiated up my spine to my armpits and shoulders. The chairs (the wooden ones) look very comfortable and nice, but if you look closely in the right light you can see that they have a large flat place in the center of where the butt crevice should be. It has the effect of placing all of the weight right on the base of the spine. For short term seating very comfortable. Long term: excruciating. I must be the only person who feels this way because as I was looking for some backup online I found a bunch of sites offering to sell you duplicates for your dining room. Talk about branding the herd.

Jourdan showed up and we walked around looking for something to eat. We stopped first at a Turkish street vendor who was selling chicken and cabbage wraps that were fair. We mosied on deeper into the bazaar and found a new thing: a smoker was built into the front of an upscale samgyopsal shop and was exuding the kind of smells that make my tummy growl. Samgyopsal is basically a thick strip of pork belly that you cook at the table and eat wrapped in lettuce with a variety of goodies. This place actually smoked the pork before they brought it. Yay! We got a sampler that came with three kinds of meat (belly, neck, and rib) and a bottle of beer. We started off with the belly and it was great. Next the neck, which was ok, but lacked the flavor of the belly, although it was leaner. The ribs, which I had saved for last, were a huge disappointment. They were dried out and tasted bad (Jourdan said that they tasted like hotdogs, but I have had some good hotdogs and would actually kill for one right now). All in all I would say the place was pretty good if you only ordered the belly and if they gave fresh lettuce for wrapping, an inexplicable omission.

When we got out of there it had started to rain. We hightailed it back to the Starbuck's to wait out the storm, even though the subway entrance was only a few yards away. He got some tea and a brownie, which I couldn't eat at 9pm because of my caffeine sensitivity. After a while we headed out. I went to an art store and bought a couple of drawing pads and some art pencils for Blue Jean and I. We had talked about drawing and found it was something that we had both enjoyed quite a bit at one time and I suggested that we do it as a way to help me slow down and really see what we are looking at when we find something beautiful on a trip. I tend to be "go-go-go" whereas she is always saying we should sit down and hang out at the pretty places. She is so cool.

Hopefully we will have an opportunity to use them this weekend as we go on a short trip on my long weekend. I have Friday off to celebrate independence from Japan and I am going to see Yoo Jin in Deagu on Thursday night and then we are going down to Tong-yeong, a small town on the southern coast which promises many pretty sights. I am not sure if I will have internet access but I promise to take lots of pictures and real good notes.