Your Grand Adventure (In Retrospect)
Often, inspiration comes when you least expect it. Namely, when you have vowed to study some Korean before work but are finding every reason possible to do everything except that, including but not limited to:
*Giving your washing machine a cleaning by running an empty cycle with hot water and dish soap, which you did not find out about on the Internet but through a friend on Facebook, who heard about it on the internet
*Talking to friends on Facebook
*Putting away your rice cooker because you’ve been eating too much rice and do believe cutting that will keep the fourth and fifth graders from calling you fat (it won’t)
*Folding the clothes from the clothes horse, which have been dry and hanging from said clothes horse for three days but NOW they HAVE TO BE FOLDED
*Watering your sad, sad plants
*Writing a blog about your grand adventure in Korea
Is it so grand? What have I been doing since I woke up? All of the above, plus eating a bowl of cereal (that was before I decided I would study Korean so I left it off the list). I figured if I did enough things besides trying to study Korean, by the time I finally hunkered down to it, it would be time to take a shower and go to school. Alas, it’s only 12:26 p.m.; there’s still time.
Then, inspiration struck in all its glorious procrastination. This might very well be a moment I remember wistfully a few years down the road wherever I land, whether it’s at some soulless desk job in New Jersey, as a teacher elsewhere in South Korea or some other future I have not futured yet. I took a photo of my apartment as it looks right now to capture the moment:
That’s my apartment right now, man! Now, shortly after noon on Nov. 7, 2013. It’s not what it looked like when I first got here. First of all, my bed was turned the other way, which just made a small apartment feel even smaller.
Meanwhile, the washing machine cycle has 39 minutes remaining. It won’t ever have these 39 minutes remaining ever again. It’ll have another 39 minutes, but unless I am making a concerted effort to be looking at it when there are 39 minutes remaining, I won’t see them. Likely, I won’t notice them. Even if I do, they won’t be the 39, now 38 minutes that remain here.
Even though I am in South Korea right now, days often blend together, like they do back home. A friend of mine who has been here only about one-and-a-half months commented last night how her weeks seem to be flying by. We were having dinner and it was already the end of Wednesday. Soon, the weekend. Then, the weekend would pass and the workweek would start all over again. Just like back at home.
How could I already be here for nine months? It seems like only yesterday I was calling myself a veteran after being here seven months, for which I suffered the comment-wrath of angry, true Korean veterans.
It’s in retrospect I remember moments from 2005 and 2010, often seemingly banal. In 2005, in Jinju, walking to the PC Room to find someone, anyone to whine to over email. In 2010, downloading Marvin Gaye’s “Here, My Dear” at the table in my tiny apartment in Deokcheon.
In 2013, sitting in my kitchen area, writing a blog post about this grand adventure, and how I may look back on it with fondness.
Not every adventure has to be a “grand” adventure to be grand. Paragliding and all-night hiking are awesome. But, so is waking up at 6 a.m. in South Korea. So is drinking shitty Korean beer at a small family restaurant in South Korea. So is folding laundry in South Korea. It’s easy to forget when it becomes so routine that we are in South Korea. And, unless you’re from South Korea, that in itself is a pretty grand adventure.
But often, it takes time to appreciate it. In retrospect, even the most ordinary tasks can become grand adventures.
Maybe I have just enough time to learn how to tell someone I don’t speak too much Korean. And whether or not I do, maybe I’ll remember this moment years from now, this perfectly ordinary moment, in my apartment in Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan, South Korea, sitting at my low, brown stowaway table, leaning against the cabinet where the hot water heater and my portable vacuum are stored, as roadwork for the Line 1 subway extensions continues outside and my washing machine spins suds over and over and over in one direction, and then the other, so hypnotically to forget how ordinary these things usually seem when I’m not paying attention.
25 minutes. And, in this post, and only in this post, this washing cycle will last forever, because it will end before the cycle does. It will always be spinning.
JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.