Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bus Exploration, Number 1

On Saturday, I felt determined and eager to set out, by myself, into the unknown. I didn't know where to go or how to begin, so I decided to make it easy. I found my bus route map, chose a route that I could see had a wide breadth of north to south distance, the 107, and decided to ride it to the end of the line, both ways. I packed a sandwich and my ipod, my camera and a book for good measure. It was drizzly but warm, and the air smelled of rain.

Me and my anonymous companions passed through the busy downtown of Pohang and into the countryside. We wove in and out of suburbs and rice fields, watching the sunlight weave in and out of clouds. We drove on city streets and highways, and I tried to follow our progress on the map. Difficult, as it was all in Korean, as were most of the road signs.

We arrived at one end of the line, and I got off, looked around, and wondered as to my best course of action. I really didn't know where I was, and my initial plan had been to just hop another bus of the same route back the way I came. However, I as I watched other buses come in and out of the depot, I thought that maybe I was up for grabbing a different route number, and see where it would take me. I couldn't read the time tables though, and two buses had already come and gone. I began to tell myself I would hop on the next one, no matter what it was. The next bus to pull up was a 107, my route. I was a little disappointed and began to reconsider, but I only had a moment to make the choice. As I debated, I saw a mi-gook (American) hop onto the bus. Meeting people was not the objective of this venture, but I had admittedly been feeling lonely the past week, and saw a chance. That, and I can't yet seem to release my insane (and insatiable) desire to attempt connection whenever possible. I'm working on it. But at this moment, I laid that aside, went with my gut, and followed him on.

His name was Marshall. He was in Korea with a program called Epik English (one I had considered, amazingly), and would be staying for five months teaching at a small hagwan outside the city. He was 21, in his mid-college years at Michigan State University. I told of him my incredible propensity to meet people from Michigan wherever I go. He laughed. We chatted in a friendly manner for the next hour or so before we began to near his small town. We exchanged info and said we would try to reconnect sometime. I don't doubt it. But that's just how it is here--foreigners connect to one another, and stay connected.

I said goodbye to Marshall and put my headphones on and listened to the rich timbre of Alice Russell's soulful voice, drifting in and out of my thoughts. I began to wish it were always that easy to talk to strangers here. And by that, I mean Koreans. I wished that I didn't feel a pull to talk to every foreigner I see simply because I don't have the option of talking to most Koreans--we just don't have the tools. There's that whole language barrier thing. I began to wish I had studied Korean for at least a year before I came. I began to think about how maybe I'm not trying hard enough to connect to locals, and I'm only reaching out to foreigners because of some silly fear or something like it.

...but then I wondered about what just happened as well as all the interactions I'd had with other foreigners I had met up to this point. I had quite enjoyed Marshall, as well as the other friends I've had the met since I arrived here. I began to wonder as to weather the simple ease and approachability in our interactions would hold out if it were a possibility to communicate with just about anyone--if there were no language barrier.

I began to think to myself, maybe I should stop wishing for things and just be where I am now. Stop fighting with my frustration, and really enjoy things as they are.

After all, where I am now is pretty nice.

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