It’s been a little over a week since I left the States. My time-orientation is tangled, probably because of jet-lag, probably because of the emotional toll from leaving. I’m stuck between saying “already a week?” and “only a week?” Much has happened, which makes my short week feel longer. Time feels faster when one is in rhythm or marching with the mundane; time feels slower when one is surprised with the new or firsts. New experience always takes longer to process, whether done consciously or otherwise. This is why, I’ve read once, time feels faster the older you get—there are less surprises when settled in one’s own ways or stuck with a 9-5 job. On the other, time feels sluggish, even threatening, when one is unemployed, no matter what age. This past week felt akin to unemployment. Thankfully, many good things happened.
I reconnected with my cousin. He knows very little English, and I have a laughable grasp of Korean. Yet we still found a way to communicate and share laughs. I mean isn’t it impressive that we were able to wait four hours in line for T-Express at Everland without getting too bored? But, good Lord, there were a ton of people that day—it was kind of disgusting.
Food, food, and food. I absolutely love 한식 (Korean style food). I will never get sick of it. And food is so affordable, I think. Enjoy a hearty meal for 7-9 USD? Yes, please. But, oh Lord, will I survive Europe for six months without a ready source of 한식?
I remember I felt the same way last time I was in Korea: it’s always disorienting to be inundated with a language one is not competent. This forces me to slow way down. Whereas a native can get from point A to B with breeze, I have to factor in at least 10 minutes of “Uh-oh, I’m lost” time. Seoul transit is, though, absolutely fantastic. Thank you, Kakao Map and Naver Map.
This language barrier can easily become a wall for me to go out. And once I figured out how to 배달, or order delivery from an app (I don’t even have to call!), staying home became much more convenient. Staying home gives me an excuse not to embarrass or challenge myself when I go out. Looks-wise, I fit in a hundred percent, but once I open my mouth I’m oust. It’s funny, because even in the States everyone assumes I speak fluent Korean.
Oh, people don’t smile in Seoul. It’s not frowned upon, I don’t think, but it is definitely weird.
I have a lot of time. Actually, it’s overwhelming how much time I have. I’m drowning in it, and it’s both invigorating and lax. For the most part, I make my own schedule and rhythm. I set my own bedtime, wake-up, meal-times, and study blocks. In fact, because I have so much time I have for the first pressure-free time to read, write, or study. I don’t have to worry about doing enough. When I don’t meet my daily quota, say 100 pages or 3-4 hours of concentrated work, I causally let go: “There’s always tomorrow!” It seems small, but as someone who wants to be an academic this mentality is rare and sometimes shamed. So, I’m grateful that this thinking flows during this privileged season.
Currently, my studies have consisted of:
- Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality, and the Self. A highly recommended book at Fuller, but I never took the classes that assigned it! Now I get to venture through this tour de force.
- German, French, Latin, and Korean. I always had a hard time with languages. It’s much easier and less demanding to read theology than learn a language. Languages require a different kind of struggle than dense reading. The first three languages are for academic reasons and the last for personal.
- Eugene Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire. Not dense at all, but certainly deep. This is my first Eugene Peterson reading, and I’m glad for it. What a gentle spirit, even in his writing.
- Deuteronomy. I’m hoping to do some sort of theological commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy on my site.