Ten days

Though I seem to be constantly in a state of self-reflection, I have yet to put into words what this past year has been, what I’ve experienced, how it has changed me, what it’s meant to me, the people I’ve met and the sights that I’ve seen, and perhaps I won’t really be able to fully  articulate such reflections until some unknown point in the future. The strange, exciting, sort of sad (all right, quite sad) and a bit frightening thing is that I’m leaving Korea in ten days and I have no idea what I’m doing.

These last few months I’ve spent flip-flopping between staying and going, and there’s this never-ending dialogue occuring between my inner beings arguing over the legitimate reasons to make an attempt at creating a life and career for myself in America and the adventurer begging me not to go anywhere too familiar, to continue the journey to foreign territories with languages indecipherable and cultures unknown. I have a very loose plan for my not-so-distant future and I’m thrilled by the numerous prospects and oddly as ease with the uncertainty of what’s to come; it’s entirely possible that in a few months I’ll be en-route to Seoul for round two, but the possibilities also include various other Asian cities, locations in America and maybe even a return to eastern Europe. As I’ve mentioned, I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m confident, a bit strangely so, that everything will work itself out as it should.

Figuring out the future is not, however, the point of this post. Tonight likely isn’t the night to get down deep into it, but I’m seriously so astonished to realize that I’ve spent a whole year living in Korea and when I think back to my first days here and the person I was then, it feels so bizarre because I recognize how much I’ve grown. When I moved to Seoul I was in dire need and want for an unfamiliar land and despite my rapture for the adventure I was embarking on, I came to this country torn apart with a broken heart desperate to mend. Whatever love I had to give, I gave it to this city and now I find myself preparing to pack my bags to leave my love behind. Seoul is a magical place that I’ve become so attached to and even with ten days to go, I know it’s going to tear a bit of me apart to fly away. My life here is a wonderful and exciting one that I very well may kick myself for leaving behind, but I suppose the thing that’s helping me to maintain my composure is that little grain of an imagined future that has me coming back here–an imagination that very well might become a reality.

I don’t have it in me this evening to review my year and share the tales that have yet to find themselves surviving infinitely in the interwebs, but I couldn’t keep quiet the excitement and anxiety wriggling all about me. In ten days I’ll be back in America and for all I know I may fall back in love with my motherland, but regardless of where I decide to call home for the next however long, I must note that I’ll be leaving a piece of myself behind in Seoul-land that someday I must retrieve. Ten days from now is not goodbye for me and this place, it’s simply a see you later.


A month of stories…Day #5

Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

“I’ll have uhh…hana of that,” Kevin pointed at the menu filled with symbols of undecipherable text.
“I thought you were vegetarian,” Shin Ji Won asked, pronouncing veggie “bay-gee.”
“I am,” he responded, sensing through the implication of her question that he most likely just ordered the entire head of a pig, the feet of a chicken and/or the stomach lining of a cow stuffed with several other meats and referred to lovingly as a delicacy. She giggled at his mistake and told him not worry.

“I ordered kimchi jigae, so we trade.”
Though he had no idea what jee-gay was, he was well-acquainted with kimchi. It was impossible to set foot in Korea and not be made keenly aware of kimchi’s presence, its unmistakable scent being breathed into the air by citizens at all hours of the day and night, weaving its tangy smell permanently into every cloth fiber draped from the shoulders of businessmen in polished suits and age-defying supermodel women in short, figure hugging dresses that walk along every single sidewalk and live around every corner.

Kevin, like most men that discover utopia crossing the road at every intersection in Seoul, found it impossible not to be taken aback by the women that surrounded him. Shin Ji Won was, he thought, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen until he realized that he had been seeing her everywhere he went. There was a Shin Ji Won at the Family Mart and there she was waiting to catch the subway at Sadang station and then he saw her again in the park with an iced coffee or maybe it was a black tea in her hand. He saw another woman just like her, but with slightly longer legs and daring to done slightly taller heels, sharing with a friend food eaten with sticks at a cart operating out in the heat of the summer night. Women like Shin Ji Won were understandably rare to him in the middle America town he spent his whole life growing up in, but in Korea she was almost every woman and this understandably shocked him.

“Do you like? Not too spicy?” She eagerly asked in the middle of devouring the tuna fried rice he had apparently ordered for her.
“It’s really good. A little spicy, but not too much,” he replied much to her chagrin.
“Really!? Wow!” She appeared both impressed and surprised to have found a waygookin not overwhelmed by the standard flavor of Korean cuisine–hot.
“So, you like kimchi? That’s very good. Kimchi very good for health and important to Korean diet.”

Kevin noticed and found adorable the way she left out certain articles when talking. He knew this was a natural occurrence for some when speaking a foreign tongue, it certainly happened to him whenever he used the Spanish he learned in high school, but he had yet to understand that this was also a complicated and logical language mishap for Koreans learning English as their language lacked most of the articles he was so accustomed to.

“Mmmm, yes. Kimchi very good and very delicious.”

He also recognized his own English language skills deteriorating in conversations where he took on this broken English way of conversing with other Koreans, despite his employment being dependent upon a proficiency in such skills. It was also rather rude and nonsensical to raise the volume of his voice and speak in minimalistic, butchered phrases whenever forced to ask Koreans questions in English, but this was something that he always acknowledged only once everything had been said. “BAR SOAP, HAVE YOU?!” he had shouted at an older female employee at E-Mart before the woman pointed to the bottom shelf and told him “it’s right there sir,” successfully making him feel like an idiot and an asshole for the rest of that afternoon.

“You want more?” She was already shouting joe-gee-yo to grab the attention of the fierce women working the kitchen and it sounded as though she had ordered them an entire feast, again. This seemed to be the way they do it here, he thought.

In time he would understand some of what she had shouted to the women laboring over the delights of his stomach and would be able to read the menus to discern what fit into his difficult-to-maintain vegetarian diet. In time he would be able to order dinner for both of them and to appropriately show his appreciation for the women playing with spices and fire. For now though, he reveled in this moment in which he sat with the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen in a place where the nights grew bright with neon and where, instead of calling him Kevin, the people called him waygookin.

In dreams, I’m moving through heavy water

I spend a lot of time alone. As a foreigner in a gigantic city, I’m constantly surrounded by sounds and signs of life and though I interact with it wildly, lovingly and often, I have a tendency to hole up in corners and spaces that keep me isolated in observance. I love to watch the world and the day go by around me–to see the sky change, the children laugh, and watch the lights dim in buildings as the neon signs glow ever brighter. Korea has grown to be a part of me and has impacted and marked me in ways that are perhaps to be expected, but still surprise me. It’s become a place I call home and even though so much of it and so many aspects of the country, the city I reside in and the culture itself are still unknown to me, I feel a sense of ease and comfort within it.

The topic of home enters my mind frequently, almost on a daily basis, and is something I somehow struggle to grasp because home for me seems to be constantly fluid and indefinite, which goes against the stability and foundation that “home” is obviously associated with. My homes are many already and are certain to continue to grow more numerous as I set out to conquer the map that my mind fills with an insatiable need to discover and understand lands and seas and people unfamiliar. It always appeared to be expressed as a joke, this declaration between my father and I that I have gypsy blood, but with the pace at which I ache to unsettle myself, to seek change and simply to move, the joke seems to be far too accurate. Perhaps it’s silly to spend time thinking on such matters, but as a romantic I do harbor these nerves and an anxiety that the way I have shaped my life and this very apparent itch that I have to stay in motion and to remain forever unsettled will result in a heart always in wanting of that mighty, euphoric love that, maybe foolishly, I do so believe exists somewhere. Sometimes it even seems that that is precisely what I’m on an endless quest for, to either find that person or place that consumes me with what I know and envision love to be.

Last night I dreamt that I went swimming in the ocean and ended up trapped in an aquarium somewhere. I tried to get out, but then I decided that it didn’t matter that I couldn’t escape because I liked it there. It’s a slightly humorous image, but also a rather beautiful one, especially when I think about how it mirrors my own life. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily feel trapped, but I can relate to the image of floating in a sea of others as the world goes by because, well, that’s what I do nearly everyday. I can’t decide if this sounds sad or pathetic or something else. I guess what I’m getting at in a very lengthy way is that I’ve grown just a little more content with what I’m doing and how I’m living my life, which is worthy of being called an accomplishment as I am too often crippled by concerns that I am not living up to my potential or that I haven’t achieved enough yet or that I have no idea what I’m doing. I still think these things are true, but I guess I’m becoming more comfortable and accepting that I will likely always feel these anxieties, so why fret?

Anyhow, I guess that’s my journal entry for the day. To every foreigner, anxious girl, romantic, or gypsy blooded soul, I know what you’re feeling too. We’re not alone, even when surrounded by a sea of fishes.