Today the world is as globalized as it could be - - yet we struggle to find meaning in our daily existence.

30 December 2010

안녕히가세요 (Goodbye) 2010

What a incredibly fast year this has been.

After sifting through my blog-posts from earlier this year, it seemed like it was only yesterday my parents arrived to visit from the States. With 2010 winding down in a few days, I suppose it's that time of the year again. A time to reflect upon the fleeting year, and of one's innate growth. When I first arrived, four hundred and five days ago (1 year, 1 month, 10 days), I was filled with uncertainty, and complex thoughts that swirled intricately inside my cerebrum. It was rather bitter-sweet. To have left the bird's nest, seeking adventure, and sensational opportunities. I was convinced that this was the best decision for me. Inspired by my colleagues who were abroad before me, I thought it was now or never.

So I eagerly arrived, hardly looking back. I'm not sure what it was, but I decided to simply look forward. Unknown to me at the time, and a bit foolish, I was tempted by the idea that I could be wholly independent, with a disregard for anyone else but myself. Classic textbook definition of selfishness. Perhaps, it was the solidarity that drove me, or the oceanic divide. Anyways, I lived with my Uncle for a few months, before that became a burden to the both of us. Maybe I wasn't "quite there." How naive of me it was to think that I could do everything on my own, that I had all the power in the world to direct my fate. I was too busy having fun, I didn't think twice about my Uncle and his family. It wasn't merely a learning moment, but a difficult time that tested me in every way possible. I wanted my forsaken independence. I didn't want to be bothered, nor woken up at 8 am everyday. The taste of freedom, and living with friends was still lingering in my mouth. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Fish and visitors smell in three days," this old adage couldn't have been farther from the truth. In any case you didn't catch on, I overstayed my visit. In retrospect, I'm embarrassed with my actions now more than ever. Times like these we wish for a time machine. We live, and learn. Well, before death catches up with us.

We parted ways, and I found myself a nice villa (standard one-bedroom apartment) approximately a minute's walk away from my school, or Academy, as the Korean's so eloquently put it here. Having my own place was liberating. Finally, the miserable winter cold thawed away to a brief week or two of the beautiful spring here. Sigh... if only it lasted longer. Before I knew it, it was summer, and I would begin my third term here (each term being approximately three months long). How reminiscent of those quarterly collegiate days, and bringing me to the last few months I spent at Costa Mesa, finding a pretty sweet Nishiki steel bike (who now sits alone in my garage back home), and biking around the hood with the Manistees. I was convinced I needed to find a bike out here, and after prowling around Craigslist for a few weeks, I managed to find a suitable white road bike from an expat who was in the market for a fixie. Thus, my training for the ensuing 100km rides would begin.

Pumping my feet; every rotation, every gear shift, every evasive maneuver was a powerful humanistic mechanism. I couldn't get enough. I was addicted. I couldn't stop. I rode day and night, up and down hills, thrashing through the bike paths, and streets reserved for four wheeled vehicles. Through the falls, scrapes, flat tires, and near death experiences, fate brought me to a local bike shop. I had run over three or four tiny nails that had punctured my tire and tore into the tubing. So I peeked in one day, and explained to the owner what had happened on my ride home. Within minutes, he had installed a new tube, promptly rejected any payments, and said it was "on the house." I thanked him, and I was ready to hit the pavement again. The next night I was back at it. Heading to the river after I got off of work at 10 pm. In the inescapable humidity of the summer, I would ride and ride until my legs gave out, my lungs searing for oxygen. I felt alive.

Eventually, the bike shop owner, who I named Lance (fitting for a cyclist enthusiast right?), and I became good friends, and after a few drunken nights with chicken and beer, and others with makkeuli, pa-jeun (seafood pancakes?), and whiskey, he convinced me to buy an even sweeter blue Trek Alpha aluminum bike that was sitting in store for an incredibly discounted price. It would have been heinous to reject his offer (which I did at first, but eventually I caved in after another few shots of whiskey).

Then fate sent me in another direction. I had joined a local facebook group dedicated to bikers in Seoul, and that was when I met Kelly. I had put an "ad" out seeking other cyclists who were in the neighborhood. Into cycling, photography, and an affinity for drinking, we were constantly competing against each other (we'll not so much with our photography, which could be another dissertation for another time). Whether it be on the bike path, fooseball, or drinking, it was a battle. Probably one of the craziest, spontaneous, and creative minds I've met in a while. We'll drink til 1 am, then he'll somehow convince me to drink 6,000W Budweisers at the record bar in Sincheon (which is probably one of the best bars I've been to in Seoul) and stay out until I couldn't stand on my own. One summer evening, while biking along the Han, we ended up on the complete other side of Seoul, and ended up buying tickets to Global Gathering (headliners including Justice, and Fatboy Slim) on a coin flip. Other times, we'll walk around Dongdaemun in the bitter cold trying to find a decent coffee shop. Or, talk to cute French majors in English by Hongdae University til 3 in the morning. Either way, it's been an absolute chaos. But it's sh*t like this (I kid), that proves not to take life too seriously, cause you'll never get out alive.

Aside from Lance and Kelly, there have been many other's who have made my time here in Seoul worthwhile, even if it was only a brief encounter, and I'm thankful for those days and nights as well. We've got another year to look forward to, so let's make it count. I'm also blessed to have extended family out here, who have helped and directed me in every way possible. My time here would have been incredibly more difficult had it not been for my relatives. For that I'm incredibly thankful. For the cherry on top, my mom flew in last week before Christmas, and brought with herself a suitcase full of my favorite goodies (cheese- gouda and cheddar, salami, 3 types of granola and cereal, 2 types of oatmeal, poptarts, chips ahoy, hot cheetos, my favorite brand of toothpaste, clam chowder and chicken noodle soup, cans of jalapenos, emergen-C, and drumroll................ 20 frozen tacos from King Taco with both sauces!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! By far the best Christmas present I have ever received in my life! It was like when I was in the second grade, and Santa dropped off a Lego set. I had to wipe away tears as I deeply inhaled the therapeutic aromas of one of these tacos. If that ain't love, I don't know what is. :D Thanks mom!!!!!!!

Well what an eventful year it's been. I've had my share of ups, and downs, and everything in between. And, I realize that this is only the beginning. It's in our interest to go out there each day with a smile on our face, and a positive attitude towards everything. That we should constantly be learning, and improving ourselves. Reaching deep into our inner most thoughts, and not being afraid to confront our demons. I'm fortunate to have this opportunity in Seoul, and I want to make sure I don't waste my time here. I've grown too comfortable with this type of lifestyle (not to say it's a bad thing), and I need to be more... productive with my spare time. Which brings us to today. I'm still working on Thoreau's Walden, but I am now teaching intensives (which are extra classes in the morning), and have found a private tutoring gig that keeps me busy throughout the week. On M-W-F, my mornings begin at 8 am, and I still get home at 10 pm. On T-TH I'll hit the snooze button a few more times, and don't have to teach until 1, but I still end at 10 pm. Absolutely ridiculous, I know. Nonetheless, I'm perfectly fine with this hectic lifestyle. I've had too many wasted mornings, and restless nights this past year. As always, with a new year, we bring in another set of resolutions, so here's my first one:

Be more productive.

At least, I've already started. ^^


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