IT’S HARD TO KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN. I realize that many readers are in the dark about the changes that have taken place behind the scenes at TDT, and I’ll admit that the nebulousness of my narrative has largely been due to my own fragmented mind. The timeline of recent events seems like a trainwreck, one piled on top of the other, without a clear beginning or end.
So I’ll start with the obvious: I’m back in Korea. After a harried several weeks involving interviews, tests, visa problems, wedding planning, vaccinations and way too much driving back and forth to Chicago, I arrived in Seoul on the night of Sunday, June 1 — jetlagged and reeling — only to start my new job as an editor bright and early Monday morning. It was rough, but well worth it.
For several days I stayed with friends of mine (whom, incidentally, I met in Wisconsin) in a southern suburb called Bundang — a good twenty miles or so from my office. I’m afraid I can’t fully communicate how bizarre it felt be so quickly transported between my bicycle-pace lifestyle in Madison to the crush of the morning commute in Seoul. It was as if I had jumped into someone else’s reality, like the scenes of my life had been shuffled with the script of some unfamiliar play.
Indeed, it makes sense that my return to Korea should feel momentous. But as I walk the streets of my old neighborhood — however much they may have changed — on a lot of levels my life doesn’t seem so different. I meet with old friends, and we pick up where we left off. I sit down at a restaurant, have some soju and pork, and it all feels natural…like I never left.
Over drinks last night with my friend Ben — who, like me, studied here for a year in ’04-05 but returned to Seoul just a little over a year ago after a stint back in the US — he assured me that the sense of change would come, but gradually. That process seems to have already started; today I returned to a cafe that once was delightfully low-key only to find that it had conformed to the cush, tacky style that is so commonly found at coffee shops throughout this city. As I sat on a big, fluffy couch and looked around the room, I felt as though all the memories I had accumulated there were suddenly even more distant, like photographs beginning to show their age.
Beyond the superficial alterations — the new Sinchon Station shopping center, the disappearance of the Synnara record store, and the inexplicable popularity of Detroit Tigers baseball hats — the biggest difference comes with my purpose in being here. I came back to Seoul to work, to pursue writing and to live; things that I could do anywhere, really. But I chose to be here because I love it. It feels good to drop ink on a fresh page, wrapped up in a city that is always humming forward.
Edited on 2008-06-08