WARNING: I'm crazy in love with Korea right now. Like the way I loved Justin Timberlake in the seventh grade or Boy Meets World reruns, um, always. If Korea were a guy, he'd totally have a restraining order against me. I feel exactly like Jessica in her affirmation video - I like my friends! I like my church! I like my city! I like my kimbap! I like my subway! I like my apartment!
I know, I need a tranquilizer. But you don't have to read these, you know.
I realized that there have been some events in the past few weeks that I totally forgot to blog about, so I'm going to start with those. This is going to be a hodge-podge of all things Seoul, likely ending with a reflection on how I'm so happy I might pee myself. Let's begin.
First, I can't even believe that I haven't written about Dr. Fish. As soon as I got here, people started telling me that I needed to check it out asap, but no one seemed to want to accompany me. One of Courtney's friends from OSU is here, and we decided to meet up one afternoon for coffee. As soon as I found Jill at the subway station, she suggested we go to Dr. Fish, and I was thrilled. What's Dr. Fish? you're asking. It's a little cafe where you put your feet in a tiny pond and fish nibble the dead skin off your toes. NO JOKE. My uncle had done this disgusting yet hilarious thing when he was on business in Asia once, and I couldn't have been more excited that there is a cafe like that just down the street from my house. Jill and I went to the cafe, ordered drinks, and waited to be called over to the fish tank.
Once it was our turn, we stepped up onto the little platform and took off our shoes. We had to wash our feet (apparently the fish are super picky about dirt and germs), then the cafe worker pointed at the tanks: "Five minute little fish. Ten minute big fish." Alrighty. We can do that! I crawled over to the "little fish" tank and peeked inside. The fish were about the size of guppies, and there were easily over a hundred of them. Jill politely waited for me to go first, and I was feeling all kinds of brave, so I dropped my feet in.
I know it's really blurry, but you can see the teeny tiny fish. I could hardly feel them scooting across my feet; it felt more like I had put my feet in a bottle of pop and bubbles were everywhere. I giggled and we took tons of pictures and the fish wiggled around between my toes. All good stuff. Then I decided it was time for the "big fish" tank. Jill had told me right from the beginning that she wasn't going to do big fish, but I knew I'd totally regret it if I didn't at least try it, so I crawled on over. Here's what was in the other tank:
Okay, not really. But it did look like this:
Pardon my language, but those are some BIG ASS FISH. As soon as I sat down beside the tank, my heart started racing. I'm pretty sure I would have been less nervous being chased by a bear (Okay, that's a lie because Michelle and I almost got eaten by a bear once and I was so scared I thought my heart would stop). I sat next to the tank for a good two or three minutes, staring down at the fish while they stared back up at me. Some of them were pushing their terrible little faces up out of the water, trying to get at me and gnaw of my entire legs. The longer I sat, the more terrified I became, but I knew that I'd regret it if I walked away. I made Jill count to three and I splashed my feet in the tank.
My feet stayed in there long enough to take this picture, then I yanked them out like the water was on fire. I swear those fish were trying to KILL me! The other tank felt like little bubbles, but this tank felt like when a cat bites you - not bad enough to draw blood, but not something anyone really enjoys. And there were DOZENS of them! A few of them actually came up out of the water because I pulled my feet out so fast and they were still stuck to me. I think I might have a heart attack just reliving the experience.
I went back to the little fish tank to let my heart slow back to its normal pace. Jill and I chatted and took a few more pictures, and everything ended smoothly.
I told you about my rain excursion on Tuesday of Chuseok and my birthday shenanigans on Thursday, but I never told you what I did on the actual holiday. A girl in my small group, Angie, invited me to visit some palaces and temples with some of her friends, and I had been wanting to see those anyway. The day started off very well; I bought these in the subway station:
That's a waffle in the shape of a tiny ear of corn and filled with some kind of pudding-like cream. Weird? Totally. Delicious? Absolutely.
I don't know any of the history of any of the places we visited, but the buildings were really pretty, so I'll show you some pictures :)
In case you're wondering, that's not a swastika. Apparently those face the other direction, and this is actually an Eastern sign for peace. Also, these palaces/temples/shrines are really cool because they're just right in the middle of the city. You can see regular buildings in the background; modern-day Seoul just grew up right around all the history. It's neat to be in a place where some of the buildings are significantly older than the country I grew up in.
(This is completely disjointed and random, but it's getting really late and I just don't have the energy to make appropriate transitions. I'm pretty much just looking through all the pictures from the last two weeks and posting interesting/funny things)
Here's a video of the little Asian boy who has stolen the hearts of all my friends back home. He brought his workbook up to my desk the other day, and he had written his name funny. I asked him to read it to me...
This is doubly hilarious because it reminds me of this.
Yesterday was my friend Kristen's birthday. She had a little party Friday night at a coffee shop, and yesterday we went to Hongdae. I hadn't been there yet, but I heard it was really artsy and fun; the girls from the women's ministry had planned an outing to go there for some art market, so I jumped on board. The market was closed due to that silly rainstorm, but we wandered around the streets and I took some pictures that I'm sure you'll love.
That's where I really work. The teaching thing's a cover.
"Look at this charming pouch and FLAMES WILL SHOOT OUT OF YOUR EYES!"
I don't wanna be your friend on facebook either, fool.
After the women's ministry event was officially over, Kristen, Jo, Jillian, and I decided to hang out a little while longer. Kristen got to pick our destination since it was her birthday...
I knew she was a good choice for a friend.
I have a million pictures from inside, and I'll upload them to facebook sometime tomorrow (promise!). For now, here's a sampling:
That's my pretty Kristen friend. The sign says "Oh yay! Happy party!" :)
Cutest. Drinks. Ever.
The ceilings were Asian-sized :)
And here's the part of the post where it gets really sappy. You should probably get a barf bag.
My three new friends and I sat at the coffee shop for a few hours just talking about life. We joked about our kids, told stories about boys we left behind, and just enjoyed life together. Jo and I have both been here about a month, so we're still in the honeymoon phase of life here, but even Kristen and Jill are delighted with their lives in the ROK. It blows my mind that an average Saturday night consists of a Hello Kitty Cafe in a place called Hongdae with two Canadians and two Americans. I feel like this can't possibly be real; this can't just be life here, this can't just be a regular Saturday night in a regular coffee shop. My new friends are wonderful and hilarious and so perfect for me, and I wonder what on earth I did to deserve such joy. I just really feel like I belong here, maybe more than I did in Cincinnati. The people and the place fit me. On the surface, I don't fit in at all - I talk too loudly on the subway and I'm the only one wearing pink anywhere I go - but my heart fits life here, and that's all that really matters in the end.
One of the things we talked about last night was how freeing life is here. From the beginning of high school, all I can remember is being asked what my next step was. Where are you going to college? What are you going to study? What will you do after graduation? Where will you live? Are you worried about your pension plan? There were so many questions about life that's far out in the distance and I always tried my hardest to answer them. I think I've imagined thirty different lives for myself in the last ten years, ranging from pediatrician to missionary to writer to teacher to hobo, and I wholeheartedly wanted all of those things in the moments that I wanted them. But here, no one makes me decide what job I'm going to retire from. No one asks what the next step is or how what I'm doing fits into my overall life plan. All people care about here is where you're from and who you are in this moment. People want to know your story, and your story only goes up until today. You don't have to worry about whether you know what tomorrow's going to be, let alone where your kids will go to school. All through high school and college, I felt like I needed to be focused on what I wanted my whole life to become, like I needed to know what my plan was and chase after it with focused ambition. But here, I don't know what life is going to look like in the next step. I know I'm in this step, and I'm living each day one by one without wondering what comes next. Sure, I think about the future. I know I don't want to live here forever, but I haven't yet decided whether I'll move to Georgia the state or Georgia the country when I leave. I love imagining the future without feeling any pressure to strive for it. In college, I nearly dropped out every time I found a new African country I thought couldn't possibly survive another day without me. But here, I'm already living an adventure, so that part of me is being fulfilled. I'm free to dream without worrying I'll miss out on something if I don't start now. I'm here at least eleven more months; I'm not going anywhere else. I'm not trying to find a better job or get a nicer car or move to a different part of town. I'm going to be right here in this tiny apartment until September 1, 2011, so I'm free to dream without the need to pursue it immediately. I was always afraid I'd miss out on life if I didn't get to the next step as quickly as possible. Now it feels like someone paused my life - just made everything freeze for a moment - so I could actually stop and enjoy where and who I am. I feel like I'm really living every day instead of just gliding into tomorrow. My heart is full and I'm content and God is so very good.