Over the past few weeks, I’ve begun to get used to life in Korea. It’s become a sort of Asian Wisconsin for me. I go to the store, buy my groceries, walk home through endless rows of high-rise apartments, and never once does it cross my mind that I’m living on the opposite side of the world from everything I’ve ever known. I’ve even stopped noticing when people (children mostly) stop and gawk when they see me. Then the other day, we were hanging out with one of the other EPIK teachers in Chungju, and she said this: “It’s snowing in Tibet, so we’re gonna be getting some weather soon.”
Tibet is not a place I get weather from. Tibet, if I hear about it at all, is a place that celebrities talk about when they want to be seen caring about a cause. It does not occupy a meteorological place in my thoughts. The idea that I was living in a country where that was no longer the case was startling.
Then today I had another moment of pause. Erin came home, shucked her backpack and her coat, gave me a perfunctory peck on the cheek, and darted straight for the fridge.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Yes. I’m just really hungry. I haven’t eaten since breakfast,” she replied.
“They didn’t give you lunch today?” I was surprised. She usually comes home raving about the school lunches.
“No, no. They did,” she reappeared from behind the fridge door with an armload of bread and peanut butter. She started making toast. In quantity.
“So, it was scary then?”
She paused and gave a little shudder, “There’s this sweet, little girl. 4th grader. Cutest child you’ve ever seen. I swear, I’d like to take her home in my pocket some days.”
“Okay…” I said, not yet following.
“This adorable child sat across from me at lunch. We had crab soup, by which I mean soup with a whole crab floating in it. It was so big, the legs hung over the sides of the bowl. I watched this kid stuff the crab’s body into her mouth. Then she just let it dangle there, legs flopping, while she sucked out the meat.”
“It was the cutest, most horrifying...! I was torn between getting a picture and hiding under the table.”
To which I just nodded. I mean, what else was there to say?
Things like this make me certain I will never acclimatize to South Korea. Which is great. Life is more fun when it refuses to be mundane.