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April 2019: Making Myself Laugh

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​Days Danced: 1
Days Sick: 0
This month was difficult, but fun. I finally started repairing my back, had some laughs, and recognized that I’m the only one who’s going to give me a break.

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The April Fool

My April 1st was definitely a joke. After tossing and turning until well after 1am, I woke up at 6:30am, made eggs, and then grabbed a coffee. Even my barista even told me I looked tired. I arrived at the bus stop to be taken to work, and I knew something was up when there was no car waiting for me.

I messaged my co-teacher, waited awhile (maybe too long), and then called her & texted another teacher from the school. He texted me that school is closed today, exactly one minute after I watch the last bus for 2 more hours pull away. That sense of foreboding I felt as the bus pulled away was another reminder to always trust my instincts.

When I first saw that message, I screamed WHAT THE FUCK, scaring the guy who just arrived, and then walked around in a vague fury, looking for a coffee shop and a bathroom. Long story short, everything is closed & nobody answers their phones at 9am. Then I see a beacon! It’s the big red building that someone told me was going to be a cacao museum– yes, in the-middle-of-nowhere, South Korea.

On the way, the only people who talk to me all morning (other than a kind bus driver who offers me a bag of apple juice) are these two lounging elderly women who ask me where I’m going. When I tell them, their only response is “Oh. That’s far. Have fun!” and a cheerful wave. So, I walk over there; it’s a small town, so it looks far but is only about a 10 minute walk. The entrance is pure mud, and there are lots of guys doing construction in the background, but they pay me absolutely no mind. It’s almost rude.

I keep expecting someone to ask me what I’m doing there, but nothing. When I finally do get the bus back to town, I get to spend the last 4 hours of my workday writing in a cafe, so I’m not sure who’s the butt of this joke. Then again, later that day I encounter rude phone store ahjeoshi who can’t seem to understand my broken-but-coherent Korean. I still think he was hungover.

Prolly coulda used some coffee.

Chocolate On The Road

Every single episode of this podcast is a last minute affair, as I continually think of more stuff I need to do to prepare for my upcoming year, or just put off working because I’m tired or overwhelmed. Everything seemed to come to a head when I fainted at my first acupuncture appointment.

It appears to have happened because I showed up not having eaten a thing all morning. I’d been experimenting with intermittent fasting for the last few weeks, and have since decided that fasting is simply an unnecessary stress on my body and mind, with minimal results. Acupuncture the week after yielded much better results, but the best illustration of how much I’ve let myself go while living in the countryside and focusing all my energy on the site is in how bad my posture’s gotten.

Early in the month I had an appointment at a body clinic in my town, where the woman (who spoke no English) spent 2.5 hours feeling up my entire body to determine that: my body is unevenly muscled, I have almost no back muscles, and my shoulders are some of the most tense she’s ever felt. The specialist showed me a bunch of exercises to do every day to improve my posture, and I worked them into my routine.

It was such a goddamn relief to finally have someone say something other than “I recommend coming for heat treatments twice a week.” ?

Seoul Dessert Show

The next weekend I headed into Seoul to spend some time with friends and let loose a bit. I ended up getting one night’s sleep over the course of 2 nights & falling half-asleep in the club; but no regrets. My highlights of the weekend were: meeting with a Dutch friend I met in Cuba 3 years ago, and the Seoul Dessert show.

It was hell getting there, but I finally found the bean to bar setup in the corner, and it was packed all three of the hours I was there! It just made me so damn impressed and ecstatic about how far the Korean craft chocolate industry has come in the last three years I’ve lived here.

Not only are there way more makers, but they’re working together to form a community, making a variety of products, and working hard to introduce Koreans to craft chocolate from around the world. I’m not sure I wholeheartedly agree with how they went about doing it, but I understand that someone needs to be making money in there.

Old People On A Bench

One Sunday I was just minding my own business, laying on a bench in my spot outside along the sidewalk, a bit away from the main road. A few people passed and glanced at me, but didn’t linger too long. About 45 minutes into my work, editing a podcast episode on my laptop (this episode), an elderly woman walks up to me and just stares for about 20 seconds. Eventually I look up and ask if she wants to sit, knowing this will inevitably become a conversation.

Unsurprisingly, she starts asking me the usual: Where are you from? Are you married? Any kids? Well how old are you then? I’m 25 in Korean age, but I told her I’m only 24, because my regular age is 23 and I like to straddle lines. Just as the small talk peters off, something I’m sure she expected, this old man appears out of nowhere, smoking a cigarette, and asks if she wants to be pushed. At least I guess that’s what he asked, as we had a number of factors working against our able-bodied communication.

She must have agreed, because next thing I know, our bench is putting its structure to good use, gliding forward, laughter fueling their exchange while I clutch my laptop because HOLY SHIT; WE’RE FLYING. I locked my thighs into place to avoid scraping my feet against the ground in front of us, but each time I glanced over at the old man, he was pushing us forward with way more strength than I’d have guessed he possessed in a single arm, puffing away on his cigarette. After a few minutes of absurdity, I thought the situation was over. Not so.

Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’ll experience next.

Next, she says she’s had enough, he drops his cigarette butt to the ground, and rounds the bench. He’s ready for a chat— where are you from? Are you married? Any kids? Well how old are you then? I reiterate my established answers, and he makes this noise, somewhere between a screech and hocking a lougie. Apparent approval.

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Over the next twenty minutes, using my broken Korean, and their heavily-accented countryside Korean, the man gets across that he’s 83 years old, the woman is 80, and neither of them looks a day younger than 90. Somewhere in there, he mentions that when he was my age he was living in Germany (sometime in the late 1950’s). Then, he proceeds to speak in almost incomprehensible German to me, having decided that America & Germany must be incredibly similar since I’m white like the Germans he knew.

This went on for awhile, with me trying to answer each of his confusing questions, him grinning & making his happy noise, and the woman just listening thoughtfully throughout the interrogation. Even when one of my students came over and declared that I was indeed his English teacher from the US, and that I give them chocolate a lot (true), he continued with the German. This isn’t even close to the weirdest experience I’ve had in Korea, either.

This month I remembered how much I can make myself laugh.

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Chocolate On The Road: Home Chocolate Making
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