Sea

I haven’t been up to much this week so I’ll just give you a bit of a rundown of the last little bit of my Chuseok break, following up from last week.

I did make it out to Incheon on Friday and I had a really nice time. It was sort of a chilly, blustery sort of day which caught me unexpectedly as the previous day had been hot and sunny. It was about an hour and a half on the subway to get there, but a significant portion of the trip was aboveground and afforded me some pleasant scenery once we got out of the thick of Seoul. Of course, it’s pretty continuous city between Seoul and Incheon but there are many green places in between where the cities mostly leave off for a bit.

My goal for the day was vague, I wanted to see Central Park and the sea. Other than that, I just figured I’d wander around a bit and find somewhere to read for a while. Emerging from the Central Park subway exit, I found myself in a pleasant little space in the midst of more modern, prettier highrises than the ones I’m accustomed to in Seodaemun.

The park itself was a pleasant little waterway with green spaces on either side. There was even a small cruise boat of sorts that could carry you the length of the passage, though the canal section is only about one kilometer long. There were statues and pathways with flowers and plentiful benches. Most of the glory of the summer, I’m sure, was lost by the time I made it out, but it was still reasonably decked out. I sat down across from a group of (bronze?) urinating boys, as one does, and took out my Dostoyevsky to catch up since I’ve been slacking. I had some convenience store kimbap and tea. So I passed a while and it was nice.

After a bit, I got up and decided to walk down the road to the water–the actual ocean water, not the canal. It turned out to be much farther away than I thought but it wasn’t super long. The first ten minutes or so of the street passed through a forest of apartment buildings under construction, this time the plain, unattractive ones I’m used to. It was kind of spooky, actually: the five lane road next to me was almost totally deserted, the street lights were out at several intersections, the windowless holes in the towers peering down like little hollow black eyes. On a grey, slightly blustery day that looked and felt like five or six in the evening starting around 1 o’clock. I loved it.

The second ten minutes went through a section of completed apartments that, while no more attractive, were at least a little more homey-looking. The small, landscaped areas in front were complete and unobscured by construction miscellanea. People were a little more common, though still few and far between. There was a school so it didn’t look quite so post-apocalyptic. The trees along the city street (save for the traffic and the trains) rustled gently and redly in the wind.

The last ten minutes ran between a golf course behind a literal and vegetative fence on my right and the National University of Incheon on the left. I didn’t explore there but it seemed like a pretty campus. There were still very few people and cars about and I rather enjoyed the relative isolation after the unceasing closeness of Seoul.

At last, I reached the water at a little park-ish place. I think it was where large pieces of the Incheon bridge were assembled (since, if you didn’t know, Incheon airport is actually on an island). I was above the water and couldn’t find a place to go down to it. I couldn’t smell seaweed or fish or salt. There were very few seagulls and no barnacles. Nonetheless, simply seeing the water was incredibly refreshing. I am a saltwater man through and through and, as I quoted on here a few months ago, to see the sea once is to learn how to miss it.

On Saturday, I was lucky enough to escape the city a second time though, as always, Seoul managed to be visible. I went up with a friend of mine and her family (they’re Korean) and we drove up to Namhansanseong or Namhan Mountain Fortress. It’s a bit of a castle on a hill and it had some splendid views which my rudimentary camera skills were unable to quite capture. But I had a great time. We went to dinner afterwards and it was delicious. All in all a wonderful close to my first Chuseok.

There’s not really much else to report from here. Classes have resumed as normal. I learned that next term’s intensive classes will start on 26 December and I will probably (but maybe there will be a miracle) have to work on Christmas. Which I knew coming here. But still.

And in case you were wondering, obviously I’m always psyched about Christmas but the period of intensifying expectation of the coming of Christmas season is now in full swing. Started probs a month ago. Like, I’m so ready for Christmas. I need it.

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Childhood; Dreaming of the Ocean

This week held nothing much of note for me, other than a great deal of wonderful weather. I’ve done more walking around than I’ve been wont to do of late and it’s been much to my benefit. I found a beautiful Buddhist shrine and a temple not far down the trail I normally take, just the other direction. There’s also a nice little part of the city that extends into the park a bit. It’s very quiet and pleasant since it’s so cut off.

On Wednesday, I did another test prep class but this time with the slightly younger kids doing the next level lower. It mostly involved picture identification from sentences and included a disturbing question about a man touching the boy kneeling in front of him. So that was not a great moment in test reading for me.

Only one more month of my first term. It’s at once insane how quickly it’s come and how slowly. It seems to always be like that, slow as it happens and fast looking back. It’s been an incredible learning curve and there’s still a ton more, obviously. It’s going to be going full steam until next February. It’s taken so much to figure out things, and I’m just doing two courses and three levels. There are other courses and levels that I haven’t even begun to tackle. So. But let’s not think of that for now. One more month with this. Let’s just get through that.

Anyway.

A small childhood reminiscence: did any of you have that mail subscription to Top Secret? It was those little magazines with puzzles and information about different countries. It was actually a lot like Carmen San Diego (another childhood favorite). The criminals all had fabulous names, the kind my AP Calculus textbook was also fond of. Izzy Sinkin, Sharon Sharilike, Ella Vader (Darth’s daughter). That last one, I kid you not, appeared exactly like that in an AP Calc question.

You had to solve the puzzles and each one would help you figure out who the criminal was, what they stole (it was always theft), and where they hid it. Like Clue too, I guess. They were so much fun. And you visited loads of countries before the subscription ended and you became an official sleuth or whatever. They had a board game too, though I don’t remember it much.

I was thinking yesterday about this, for no apparent reason, and thinking about what my younger self would think of me now. It’s a common question but not one I’ve actually thought much about. Small child me had a lot of interests. At one time or another, I wanted to own a nursery (the plant kind), be a history teacher, be an author, or be an Egyptologist (like Zahi Hawass, a former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities whose name I knew from a very young age).

Sometimes I think I’ve wound up doing just sort of random things instead, from high school until now. But that’s not really the case. I think in many ways I’m very much the same person. I wanted to travel the world and learn as much about it as I could. I’ve certainly seen a good chunk of it with hopefully more to come. And I’m teaching (though that one I honestly did not expect). I’ve studied languages–without achieving fluency…yet. I’ve seen a lot of history and, though I’m no archaeologist, I’ve gotten some rad opportunities to be hands on.

[Little story time on that last note: In Turkey, I visited the ruins of Ephesus and got to actually like touch everything. In England, one of my classes had a field trip to the cathedral library where we actually got to touch thousand year old manuscripts.]

It’s somehow comforting to realize that I haven’t come so far after all. Knowing that my childhood passions are, in fact, still alive and well makes me feel like maybe what I’m doing isn’t so unreasonable. Little Keegan would not, I think, be so disappointed as I sometimes fear. At my core of cores, from then to now, is a desire to know as much as I can about this pale blue dot. Sometimes that means Wikipedia browsing and other times actually traveling. I’m working on it.

Unrelated to everything above, but I was reading this morning and encountered a wonderful sentence that I have to share. Oh, how I ache sometimes!

To see the ocean once is to learn how to miss it.