October 23

There are days that are just plain good. This week has been full of them.

Once I decided not to enroll in the next semester of Korean, my stress levels dropped significantly. This also means I can take a longer vacation in the US without having to worry about school deadlines.

A call to Delta got me a changed flight and a hundred dollar credit; my teaching exams were easily rescheduled; with some panicking I finally found a rental in Seoul for quarantine upon my return since the presence of roommates means I can’t quarantine here, and special city rules say I can’t use a Busan Airbnb to quarantine.

House Owner is asking around to see if any Seoul friends would be willing to give up their apartment for a week and she also promised to cut my rent for the six weeks I’m gone which is a huge burden lifted. I’m basically just paying for storage.

After a test that seemed too easy, I was finally free this afternoon to work on some writing and go souvenir shopping for my inevitable return.

My hometown friends and family have little interest in Korean cultural gifts which makes me sad. There’s a whole world of things to buy! Luckily I have plans to meet two friends that happen to live in Florida from a chat group about… a Chinese drama.

I’m planning to shower them in all the Asian gifts I can’t buy for others.

After an afternoon in a breezy, open coffee shop with slowly dropping temperatures I was brought in by the glow of a local gift shop I’ve passed a number of times but never entered.

The owner was surprised I spoke Korean and we made small talk about gifts, my travel plans, quarantine, and the regret that new age refrigerators are not magnetized and thus all the magnets I want to buy for people might be rendered useless.

“You speak Korean well.”

“I really don’t. I’ve been studying this semester and while my reading and listening have gotten better my speaking has really worsened…”

This is definitely an ill effect from online classes with large student numbers and little time to practice.

It’s a far cry from the course I took in Seoul for a number of reasons, and not just COVID accommodations. I have not once stepped foot in a classroom on campus and there are less than three weeks left in the semester.

Only three of my classmates seem to need Korean for their studies; the rest I have to assume were shipped here by their parents. Having 17 nineteen year old students who don’t participate in our zoom class is frustrating and also slows my learning down.

So I quit the idea of enrolling next semester and will simply go back to online tutoring a few times a week with self study in between. It also means more time for sightseeing and Korean experiences, like small talk with friendly shop owners.

After checking out, the owner handed me a sticker.

“A gift,” she said.

It’s possibly the best gift I’ve ever received.

No school next semester also means more time for job preparation.

The recruiter finally took pity on me and we had a call this week about what documents I need.

He wanted to know why I left Seoul.

“Nobody does that. Nobody moves from Seoul to Gyeongnam.”

As another expat friend said, Seoul is another world. The quality of life outside it is so much better.

I think of the small talk I shared with the souvenir shop owner and every affectionate interaction gives me back a day I lost in Seoul.

It also appears as though I’m well qualified for the teaching position and that most other applicants don’t have experience, which was a surprise to me. Gyeongnam is a rather strict county and intro videos from other applicants in the past seem to imply a large breadth of teaching experience.

It did make me wonder if I should be aiming higher then but, I have plenty of time to see what other options there are.

Later I met up with House Owner and Freshman at the cafe and then we were off to barbecue.

As we stuffed our faces with different fatty cuts of pork, I noticed the warm atmosphere and that the other Korean diners didn’t take any extra notice of me. It reminded me of something an expat friend who’s lived in both Seoul and Busan said earlier this week.

“In Busan I don’t feel like a foreigner, I just feel like a person.”

That about sums about the difference in feeling between the two cities.

I’m so grateful for this Busan life.

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