Thursday, November 4, 2010


The cold has come to Pohang, and each day I wrap my scarf around me, pull on my gloves and jacket, and brave a ten minute frigid walk to work. The walk home is colder still, as by that time, the sun is not up to offer its forgiving rays. The bitter chill got the better of me this weekend, and I am battling a horrendous head-cold that makes me want to stay in bed all day, sleep, and drink tea. Alas, there are students to be taught. Hopefully, the weekend will offer me the rest I need and I'll be back to 100% soon enough. Well, perhaps I can credit the cold air for my sickness, but I may have to note a busy Halloween weekend which may have had its part as well.

This weekend, I ventured to the city of Busan, two and a half hours south of Pohang. It was my first trip to the south, and one of my best yet in Korea. Why Busan? I was connected to this city by a friend of a friend back in Portland, interestingly enough. Upon arriving at a Halloween house party there, I met my original fellow expatriate west-coaster, and was then introduced to person after person, each one inviting, friendly, and at ease in conversation. Eventually, the entire party rallied, and it was off to downtown to check out the bar scene.

The Halloween festivities were a little crazy in downtown Busan, in a major foreigner hub whose name I can't recall. People were everywhere in outlandish costumes, parading in the streets, and of course, most of them were foreigners. Koreans do not celebrate Halloween, officially. That there is any acknowledgement of it all, let alone hundreds of bar parties across the country speaks directly to the foreigner presence in Korea. I bar hopped with this group, danced my face off, and caught moments of conversation with costumed patrons whenever I felt the need to just sit and gather energy. The evening wrapped up with some Norebong, at which point my voice was so hoarse, I decided to call it a night after just two songs. I snagged a cab and made it "home," collapsing onto the couch-bed close to 6am.

I woke in the (late) morning to my gracious hosts (Tabby and Chad) offering me coffee and a place on the porch beside them. We sat and gazed from the 18th floor sun-room balcony onto the Gangwan Bridge and the water below it. The sun shone brightly, making the water sparkle. The breeze wafted through the opened windows and I looked beyond the water to the horizon--a sprawling city skyline backed with mountains covered in treetops. Beautiful.

Eventually we made our way outside and down to Busan's Global Gathering festival that happened to be occurring that weekend. I had no prior knowledge of it, but it I was up for anything. The festival was held at the waterfront, and Tabby and Chad's singing group would be performing a set in a line up of performers. I was amazed that they were able to find a group of people with this shared interest in Korea, but I had to remind myself that Busan is quite larger than Pohang. 3 million people larger, in fact, with quite a thriving artists' community. Busan is actually the sight of PIFF (the Pusan International Film Festival), one of the top film festivals in the world.

We ate food of multiple cultures and lounged in the sun, waiting for their moment. It couldn't have been a better day for an outdoor event, and I felt rejuvenated, despite my worsening sore throat. I watched the water, I talked a little and listened a lot, I lay on my back in the sun, I felt the breeze and took deep breaths.

I watched my new friends perform, and delighted in the sounds of voices singing harmony. I miss singing. Especially choral music. When they had finished, we headed back to the apartment to deal with the havoc of the previous night (they had hosted the house party where our Halloween began). It really didn't take too long, and once it was done, we all felt relief. We returned to the porch where we passed a few hours swapping stories, swapping songs, and just sharing ourselves with each other. Though it was Sunday, I decided to stay the night, at their invitation, and leave in the morning. I just didn't feel like leaving quite yet.

In the morning, I hugged Tabby as she headed out the door for an early Monday, then made a breakfast of scrabbled eggs and hash browns for Chad and I. Chad then walked me to the train station, making sure I found my way alright. Though they had both said so a few times before, Chad reminded me that I was always welcome for a visit. I thanked him, hugged him, and hopped on my train. I beamed as I looked out the window at the station disappearing into the distance, the tracks click-clacking beneath me. It is always a good feeling to connect to people in such a meaningful way. My ride home offered me more beautiful blue skies, and hills covered with trees just beginning to turn. The fields of rice are now turning to a brilliant gold, and when the sun is out like it was then, it seems to make them shine.

A day later, my head became congested, my throat pained, and my nose an endless drain for the grossness in my head. It is now Thursday, and I'm beginning to see the light at the end of this head-cold tunnel. I haven't been sick in a long time, so I really don't think it's so bad. Tomorrow is Friday, so I'll just have to make it through, and then I can come home and collapse, and sleep for 16 hours if I so choose. In the end I think, sickness is not always preventable, especially when you work with children. Who's to say I didn't get it from one of them? Certainly, enough of them have been having their share of coughing and sneezing since the weather has turned. Whether it's the kids or the awesome weekend, I will survive, and it's worth it.

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