I should be finishing my class in Mesoamerican art history today. It’s been a good class. I’m kind of happy that it involved little to no discussion with my classmates. I’m just a little too sharp and frustrated these days, a little too snappish and short, to converse with strangers on subjects. I mean, I try but I usually let myself down.
I generally have the sense –probably pretty typical– of having a bit of a peculiar worldview and having to communicate in some shorthand that usually occludes my meanings rather than reveals them. To explain anything that I’m trying to say, I kind of have to explain everything. Start at some single organism mud-level, series of explanation and definitions pulled out of some idiosyncratic but, nonetheless well-defined, psychic lexicon, just to make sure that we’re even speaking the same language. By the time I get that shit out of the way, usually everything is so hopelessly diverted from any subject under discussion, or I am so worn out with the process of explaining how I arrived at my conclusion and why it’s not even a conclusion but maybe just a question, that I have no energy left to even discuss the thing or to build on it. This process of communication can make me a little curt. Trying to economize my time and energy can make me appear even more curt than I ever usually feel and also appear more sure of a thing than I ever actually feel. It can be a bad combination.
One of the nicest things my wife ever said to me, and I don’t think she intended to be nice, but I kind of enjoy the accuracy of the thing, is after a long sigh “the more time I spend with you, the more I doubt that you’re really one of us.” By us, she meant humans. And, obviously, I am a human. Goes without saying, I hope. But I don’t get more normal over time. There’s not like, a normal human wrapped up in all this weirdness. You’re never seeing the strange parts. This is always the most normal I can be. I go through life doing an impression of sanity. I always feel like I’m speaking a foreign language. I think that might be why I’m happier in a place where I am. It just gets that out of the way and saves everyone time.
Might be why I like low-stakes areas of shared meaning such as baseball, Star Trek, and suits, though, god knows, I have my disagreements and divergences on all this too.
I suspect most people feel the same. But, all the same. it’s probably a good idea to keep me –and probably most people– out of discussion forums right now.
At any rate, wife and I went to market and did some shopping over the weekend.
There’s been some talk in the ex-pat community about Korean xenophobia and, swear to God, I have no idea where these people are going or what they’re doing there to experience any of that shit. It might be happening but, like, I’ve experienced nothing but kindness.
At the fish market, our squid lady is not only giving us free squid but pulling out squid from her secret squid stash. We saw the chicken truck on the street for the first time in ages and that shit was like a family reunion and they gave my wife a bag of free donuts and the donuts were delicious. My barber is teaching me the Busan baseball team’s fighting slogans and songs. We walk down our home streets in a major city waving at people and people waving at us like it’s Stars Hollow. Hell, even that shirt pictured above? I didn’t even pay for it! My tailor just threw it into my order for free. And a free tie on top of it.
Like people are really goddamn nice to us. You read online about these backlashes against foreigners but goddamned if I see it. People here have done nothing but go out of their way for my wife and I. I saw more hatred towards foreigners in the USA and Canada than here. Like, not just on the news, though there was that too, of course. But raw, on the ground hatred, contempt, and anger towards anyone perceived as foreign. It was kind of non-stop, daily life. Here? Just don’t see that and I am certainly not the subject of it. All I really want to do is pay back this kindness, contribute, and just be helpful, you know?
That’s beside the point though. The point is, it’s tomato season. So I made some spagetti.
It was a bit different than what I usually make. Beef, red meat in general, is kind of a luxury item here. (In the states, meat is a lot cheaper than veggies, which never made any sense to me.) So this was more of a veggie and seafood sauce but I think it turned out okay. Wife was happy with it, at least. For my part, I miss habaneros. Their kick is just impossible to replace with anything else and the ones I grew in Sac were so much spicier than those available in grocery stores. So I’ve been missing habaneros for a minute.
Other than that, things are pretty good. I do feel hesitant about sharing pictures like this because I know people from North America see them and I worry that these pictures can give some impression of things having returned to normal, when they really have not and will not. (Getting back to normal just isn’t even part of the discourse here — moving forward, every day life quarantine, a new deal, and a green new deal are the things under discussion.) Things are very different than they were when we moved here. Our schedules and lives are seriously altered. Many of my favorite places remained closed. I’m not going to get to see the Seagulls play baseball or sing the songs that I’m learning at the barber shop. But there is an adequate allowance for daily life. There is a way to navigate through this shit and we’re finding it. We’re trying our best. Disruptions happen, we try to avoid explosions.
Also, kind of an odd thing but I think Wife and I are coming up to a point in time when we’ve spent as much time in South Korea under COVID-19 as we have without it. I don’t know what that means exactly, or even if it means anything at all, but it feels like it means something. Moving is itself a bit of an upheaval and moving out of one’s city, let alone, country and culture, another upheaval, and it’s something we’ve done a few times now. In a way, this whole thing feels like the world has itself moved around us. And during this shit, just like before it, there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be and no one I’d rather be with.
But, man, this really wasn’t what I was expecting either, you know? I had plans!