sweet mother jesus god mary and zarathustra! i don’t think i could love san sebastian any more if i tried. dave and i did nothing today but wind our long way around the cove here up to some weirdo sculptures (the “wind comb”) that i don’t know the story behind, spend two hours eating an amazing lunch of grilled veggies, fresh fish, salad, cheesecake, cream caramel, vino tinto de verrano (red wine spritzer), espresso and pacharan (a digestivo made from berries soaked in anise). then, lounged on the beach, where the sun was still high overhead when i came back to the pension at 7:30. on the beach, naked kids everywhere, young women and septuagenarians alike sunbathing topless, italian twenty-somethings playing cards, and unbelievably beautiful spanish women all over the place. heard a girl teaching someone to count in korean, said “anyong,” and headed back here for a tardy siesta before dave and i go watch the sun set. off to hamburg tomorrow. 20 hours on the train.
my last few weeks in korea, when i told people i was leaving the country soon, i was most commonly met with a sort of sneering, scoffing, “see you in six months.” but what folks don’t seem to understand is that when you leave a place like this
to come to a place like this
i have escaped korea at last. in the end, it all went off without much of a hitch. from the moment i arrived at the seoul airport, i could feel the good travel vibes kick in. helped a tunisian man from my flight whose checked baggage had gone missing, listening to him explain his problem in french, asking him questions in italian, translating to the korean airport gal in english. he bought me a beer (it was 9:30 am), and we got him his bag back with minimal drama. waiting on my flight to madrid in moscow, chatted with a high-powered russian lawyer woman and a guinean basketball player with a scarred up face. now sitting in the flat my friend dave will soon be inhabiting, chatting around with his spanish roommates. and all this possible simply because i happen to have been born in an english-speaking country, and seemingly everyone in the world has gone to the trouble of learning english. it really does open just an incredible amount of doors, doesn’t it?
i have had a lot of good run-ins with the korean healthcare system, bookended by two hospital visits that, had i made them in the united states, would have put me probably about a grand in debt.
last year, i got food poisoning about three weeks into my stay here and would up going to the hospital for an IV. in the states, this would have meant a visit to the emergency room, automatically putting my bill in the hundreds of dollars. i probably would have spent a long time waiting to be seen and then propped up on a gurney in some hallway next to a drunk with a banana bag. not so at inje paik hospital. i paid the equivalent of about $12 usd to spend four hours in a comfortable bed in a special room for people chillin’ with IV’s, had my own TV to watch and was given treatment pretty much as soon as I walked in the door. that’s when i started falling in love with korea’s universal healthcare system.
by far, my all-time favorite kids from my year of teaching come from last session’s natural class. there was alex, who was so kind, smart, loving and perfect in every way that it’s easy to imagine him as somehow carrying the last sliver of hope for mankind inside his little heart, were reality skewed a little more toward some Children of Men dystopia. there was kelly, who had this incredibly strong sense of herself and felt totally comfortable doing her own thing and being a weirdo. and then, there was andy. i’m not their teacher anymore, but andy is still my pen pal. he writes me a letter every couple of days, and i write him back, though i’ve been a bit derelict in my writerly duties recently. today, he gave me the pen pal letter of a lifetime. i think i’ll frame it when i get home. keep in mind this kid is six and writing in his second language.
well, it wound up being more like twenty balloons, but britt biked to the park with these, which i think was pretty impressive.
most people followed the red food rule pretty carefully, with everything from crab-tomato-brie sandwiches…
there are more temples here in busan than i could ever muster enough interest to visit in my year-long stint here. most people just hit the big ones, yonggungsa and beomeosa and rave about the particular beauty of the beach temple. any visit to either of these places, you can expect to see a lot of other people, hear a lot of chanting and smell a lot of incense. they’re immersive cultural experiences, to be sure, but lonely planet had it right when they named seokbulsa, the stone buddha temple, as their #1 place to visit in busan. yesterday, i hiked with a few friends from school up a mountain in oncheonjang to see it for ourselves.
my little hellions in jewel class tried to charm me before our field trip down the road to jangsan mountain by giving me flowers for teachers’ day.