I've recently been traveling all over Korea. Thank god for midterm exams and school camping trips. However, much to my surprise, this trip has not been simply the carthartic break I was expecting.
After my classes on Monday, I hopped a bus to Busan, which quickly became one of my favorite Korean cities. The second biggest city in South Korea, Busan is located on the east coast towards the southern part of the country. I was hailed to Busan by the week long film festival. For a week, the biggest movie theaters in the city dedicate themselves to the showing of Korean and foreign films. The tickets can be purchased either in advance (over the internet or phone I believe)) or the day of the movies in person. Each ticket is an unbeatable five dollars. Five bucks buys you an assigned seat in some of the most moving and momentous movies of this year and the past. On Tuesday, I had one of my most wonderful days since arriving in Korea. Clint and I woke up early to purchase tickets. We had breakfast in a local coffee shop with two other friends and then promptly headed out to the beach, where I collected seashells while walking in water whose temperature rivaled that of Jersey waves in the height of summer. After the beach, Clint went back to the motel (haeinsa style--> sleeping on mats on the floor) to shower and I went off to buy new jeans. **fun fact- korean stores will hem your jeans for you in about thirty minutes right there in the store for free or for the nominal price of less than 2$.
We spent the rest of the day watching foreign films: Red Eagle: Thai Action film (we saw the main actor outside of the theater after the movie.
Rondo: German film set during the Holucaust about the relationship between a boy and his grandfather and the idea of the dead being restored to you and the idea of faith
State of Violence: South African film set in Johannesburg about the idea of revenge.
Finished up the night in the same coffee shop we started it in.
Wednesday found me in Jeonju. Had a picnic in the lotus garden with Yoon-Chan. **Fun Fact two: music comes out of unseen speakers and the fountains put on a show in time to the music.
Thursday I was back in Naju for a bit due to a lost cell phone.
Friday back to Kwangju where we went to a Jazz club that night.
Saturday--> off to Jeju, one of the most beautiful islands off the coast of South Korea. Stayed with my friend Shreya and her lovely host family and visited a beach and some beautiful waterfalls.
The traveling was amazing, but this was also some of my first time to come up for air since this whole Korea adventure started. I had more instances of forgetting I was actually in Korea than I could count during the last week...and I'm sad to say that the experience was a little relieving. Sometimes I was sad to come back to reality. It's strange this sense of limbo I feel here. I behave in ways I wouldn't in the states because I feel no allegiance to my life here or to the culture (weighed down by seven bags, standing by the gargage can, systematically squeezing ketchup into my mouth from the package while popping fries one by one). Even the way I dress and put myself together reflects my nonchalance within the Korean culture. I know it's only for a year, I've decided not to hold myself accountable by Korean standards (almost in defiance of the wide-held perception that my countenance marks me as Korean and therefore I should conform) and thus I stand apart, secure within a bubble of my own self-assured Americaness.
I've spent such a long time simply trying to get through that I haven't had much time for reflection or to take stock of where I've actually gotten in these last three months. Although there are certainly things I'm proud of; learning a modicrum of Korean language, the ability to scream a taxi into submission and make it to my host family's front door, being a part of a Glee club with students from the local University, there's still so much I have yet to do.
I sent in the first probing emails in the search for my family today. Sometimes, its easy to forget that that's the real reason why I'm here in the first place. However, with every big purchase I justify (sheets because after all I am LIVING here for a year), it becomes harder to ignore the fact that no matter how displaced I feel, this is both my life and my reality for the next 9 months. I think I need to start living it.