Friday, March 6, 2009

a friend returns, a day at the cheonggyecheon

november 18~

the next day i hung out with sunyoung. we grabbed some lunch and chatted. she told me about her recent attempt to take an exam that would enable her to become an english teacher for the public school system in korea. she had been preparing for this exam for over a year, just studying on her own for a single test. that's how things work in korea. it's a completely ridiculous system, and i hate to see how it affects the self-confidence of young, aspiring people. this is one of my biggest beefs with korea... well, she wasn't able to do well enough on the test, despite the fact that she is the more naturally suited to teach children than anyone i know, and perfectly able and qualified to. the failure struck her like a thunderbolt, as it would to anyone who puts so much effort into a dream that is contingent on a single test. i was happy to hear that she responded to the bullshittyness of the situation by getting out of korea for a few days and escaping to malaysia with a friend of hers to resettle herself. i couldnt have advised a better response, and the trip seemed to do her a lot of good. even though i was frustrated that things had to end up that way, i was happy for her, that she was able to respond in such a symbolically defiant way.

november 23~
the next weekend i met up with miri in jongno, downtown seoul. we poked around the bookstores a bit and then decided to hang out at the 청계천 ('cheong gye cheon') since the weather was so nice. the cheonggyecheon is a stream that runs through downtown seoul. it was an original part of the city, but was covered over after the korean war because it interfered with the transportation system. about 4 years ago it was restored as a sort of 'urban renewal' project, and it's a welcome distraction from the sprawling city.

[as you can see, it runs right through the city]

after hangin out by the cheonggyecheon, miri and i met up with our old friend, 슬기 (seulgi) who i hadn't seen or spoken to for about 2 years. seulgi kind of disappears like that... we got some dinner and patronized a small bakery for a cheap cup of coffee, before we had to say farewell.

november 27~
when ginny came during thanksgiving, it was like the defibrillation that our relationship needed (you can read earlier posts about that). even though i wanted to introduce her to everything i loved about korea, i didnt want to overwhelm her with a part of my life that she was not personally familiar with. so we contented ourselves to just taking it easy. ginny came to a couple of my classes, posing as a prospective student (to ensure the ruse, i saved her from discovery by interrupting every time another student spoke to her in korean kkk). anyway, after class one night, i invited my good friends, donggeun (a coworker teaching TOIEC classes) and JJ (free-talking student), over to my apartment for some beers. who better than these two great guys to demonstrate the unconditional friendliness that is so naturally ingrained into much of korean society? it was a good night.

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