While some of you in other parts of the world were enjoying cool, fall-like evening temperatures and sitting around bonfires over the last few weeks, I have been enduring Korea's hottest summer in like 100 years. A heatwave gripped northeast Asia for weeks on end and killed a bunch of people (maybe because they refused to turn on their air conditioning...but that's a different blog post). It was probably three straight weeks, every single day that the actual temperatures reached the high 90s with the "feels like" temperatures consistently hovering around 103-105. And really, the "feels like" temperatures are what matters anyway.
I have a 25 minute walk to work every day. Luckily a lot of the heat wave took place during my 9am-2:30 schedule so my walk to school was alright but coming home was miserable. Once I opened the school doors to leave it was like a wall of 105 degree heat smacked me in the face, causing me to break into a full on sweat in under 20 seconds. Then I had to walk home in it. My school finally got some sense (shocker) and allowed us to keep the air conditioning on constantly, although a few of the meanest old lady sticklers in the place told me to keep it on 28 degrees (that's near 80F) to conserve energy.
Conserving energy, HA! Korea put the entire country on some kind of energy saving alert, warning everyone there would be blackouts if they used their air con too much. Whatever. South Korea has only been a part of the "advanced" world since their war in the 1950s and it has been dragged into modernism kicking and screaming ever since. It's only been recently that it's been given some sort of spotlight as a new and exciting tourist destination (skip it), about its food (avoid unless you like pickled seaweed and fermented cabbage) and about its people being fashion forward (all they wear are sweatpants and giant tshirts). Perhaps PSY was the one to get that spotlight on Korea and good for him, but believe me, this place is a backward, immensely in debt, illogically thinking society full of people who care about nothing other than themselves and the small bubble surrounding them. Call me cynical, call me jaded for having been here too long, call me straight up mean for saying things like that, but as a general rule, it's true. This energy saving thing, for instance. Korea, how are you going to prove that you have a legitimate place in this world as an amazing, innovative place if you can't even handle high temperatures? And don't even get me started on not flushing the toilet paper because "the pipes can't handle it". I understand when I go to third-world countries that the toilet situation might not be the best, but if I can flush my toilet paper in India...I mean come on. I don't like walking into every bathroom and seeing a trashcan full of poop and blood covered paper. So Korea, if you want the world to take you seriously, you probably shouldn't announce that there will be blackouts if the temperatures reach 100, especially when it's probably not true anyway (i.e. fandeath).
A very good friend of ours left many moons ago and has now returned to this glorious place. He had planned on coming back when he left, we were all just waiting around for his return. He did the usual SE Asia travels, a visit home and then hopped back on a plane to endure another year of teaching. Since Al and I have now been here for a year and eight months (wow) we've seen many come and go, but it's hard when some of your closest leave. A very, very best friend of ours will be leaving just in a few shorts weeks and I truly don't know what we're going to do or what it's going to be like without him. His presence is a constant in nearly everything we do and everywhere we go and then WHAM BAM, he'll be gone. A coworker of Al's will be leaving next week as well. After they're gone, I think Al and I are the next to go in April.
A friend Brett and I surprised Abhay at the airport and it was so cute. I feel that our (now) very small group of friends is somewhat back to "normal" now that he's here, missing only a few faces. We celebrated his coming back this past weekend. Brandon (the BFF leaving soon) and some other friends played a show at a place in KSU and everyone was there. As I sat there listening to them play music, I looked around the room at all these people (some that I've known since arriving in Korea) who have become my friends and family. I glanced at each one of these individuals, each one from a different corner of the earth, all here in this one place, and grew somewhat emotional at the thought that this is all temporary. It's temporary for every single one of us. We are all so very, very different yet we all share one same attribute: a thirst for travel. 99% of us aren't here to hone the English vocabulary of Koreans, we are here for some quick cash and a chance to see the world. When I say that these people are my friends and family, I mean that in every sense. None of us have family here; we become each other's family. Whatever brought all those people there in that room here to Korea, whether running from something, trying to find something or plain out boredom, we are all in it together. Seeing Abhay again makes me fully understand the depths that these friendships run. We haven't been friends since elementary school or high school, we've only all known each other for usually, a year or less. But once here, we are all united under one large tent of sorts, because we are all the same. People come and go and that will never change, but neither will some of the relationships I've built here.
These last two posts have been about friendships...I think it's because I'm realizing that my time here is running short. Eight more months. It may seem like an eternity to some of you (in some ways, it does) but I'm realizing that I can't take one day here for granted. Al and I have started talking and somewhat planning for what we're doing immediately after we leave (our vacation before heading home permanently) so I think that's what has me a bit sentimental.
Eight. More. Months.