San Diego, I miss you for our beach life together. Waking up to throw on a summer dress and maybe a bathing suit, messy beach hair in all it’s glory, and walking out the door in my flip flops. Tons of friends and stuff to do, always an air of chill happiness and living on vacation. It was a simple, social and active outdoor life that I had fallen in love with 20 years before and never stopped. San Francisco, I miss you for being the haven of finally finding my people. Other creatives, weirdos, intellectuals and big thinkers. Where it was good to be unique, different, individual and a dreamer. Felton, I miss you for the peace of the redwoods that could center my inner chaos more than anywhere else in the world. You gave me the magic of fairy dust and dreams of writers. Burning Man, you gave me a different kind of magic in the dust. A pilgrimage to the the healing I’ve needed my whole life. A home of confidence, foundation and the hope of how good a society can be. You gave me spirituality and a haven that had only lived in the dreams of a different world.
Forgive me for the times I took you for granted. When my mind stole me away and I got stuck in my head. It usually came when it had been too long since I had last hit the road. I needed travel to grow and stay “awake”. To come out of the suffocating hibernation of repetition that I would fall into, unable to be with or see you even when you were right under my feet. Knowing that or not, it broke my heart to leave you. Especially to be gone when Covid and Trump were starting to rip you apart. In the past, I had been the only thing to change. That had been hard enough. The way it created a fracture in the bond I felt with those in my life. I had grown and they had stayed the same. Well, I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Everything would be different for everyone when I got back. Home and my people would have also gone through a lot. Maybe more than me. Different for sure. So many firsts and hardships but without the positives of the bubble that was keeping me safe from it all. Yes. They were changing that time, too, but hopefully not in too much of a different of a direction.
July had come and work was sliding farther and farther into the shitter. I was trying to stop it from taking over but my life tended to revolve around work. That and, just like my Papa, I tended to feel a lot more negative under all of the positive energy I put out. Forever focusing on what needed to be fixed instead of what was at peace, I was a complainer. Partly out of an insecurity of not being able do anything right that had been ingrained long ago. It was one of my least favorite traits. I’d even tried therapy to help with it. Quack wanted to focus on something else instead of the actual reasons I went. There were also forever tabs open to study on my phone. We all knew how often we actually got to those though. Hey, at least I was trying. Those two may not have had scored but there was one more that I was doing OK to remember now and again. It was to say three positives for every negative. For example of focusing on the bad, I didn’t feel like I was mentioning enough how lucky I was to have a home that I would always miss or how happy I was to be out the world teaching. That part and the kids was great. It was the business side that was the issue. Other hagwon teachers would automatically know that but not people outside the industry. It made me sad to realize that I probably wasn’t being clear in separating the two when talking about it to them.
Speaking of, I went to the owners about my archnemesis, Mun***. Hurray for my finally getting to a place of being able to stick up for myself! Not so much of a hurray for the outcome though. Kel and Mrs. P told me that it was a personal problem I needed to take care of myself. I’m sorry, a personal problem? When Mrs. P had told me herself that he was the one I should go to for any help needed and he wouldn’t even let me even finish a sentence. Not to mention being hostile, resentful and coming at me with all of that on a normal basis. Mr. K, surprisingly the nicer one, said he’d talk to him. Mun*** had a better tone after that but he still showed zero interest in letting me talk or helping. He did things like treating the kid’s words as fact without even thinking to ask me for my feedback before lecture-blaming and repeating himself half a dozen times. The blaming from one side and asking questions later (if ever) wasn’t just him though. I’d noticed it about the culture in general. Make one-sided assumptions and blame, blame, blame. Bla. OK, three positive things. The bus line was right by me so I could easily jump on it to get to the other side of the island. It really was beautiful when I actually got over there. I was also making enough income to not have to nickle and dime for the first time in what felt like forever. Big exhale with that one.
Good weather was few and far between during those hot, muggy and rainy days. According to the Korean Herald, Jeju had seen rain at that time 29 of the most recent 48 days. It was the second-highest number of rainy days in any monsoon season in the island’s history. Dear monsoon season: you overstayed your welcome. It was all fun and games at first but I was sick of showing up to work drenched, being blown away and most of all, for my weekend plans being screwed. A certain amount of rain was to be celebrated for keeping that beautiful island green but come on, enough was enough. Global warming needed to GTFO.
I did manage to luck out when one of the rare decent weather days ended up being the 4th of July. Finally biting the bullet and trying to be social, I went to an expat party that was a BBQ picnic at a bar with a lawn for some fun games. It had a cool warehouse vibe with some tagging on the wall for art along with a setup that allowed a couple folks in the group to sing and play instruments. Sure it was fun but the way I felt made it sadly clear that I was still a little too whacked out from the stuff the stuff that had gone down back home to handle much socializing. Regardless of feeling a little lost, the night still ended with me and a few others down to our skivvies in the ocean, fireworks in hand. Not sure it made the best impression but I was happy to be able to let myself free, even if only for a short moment.
A few days later, death came to haunt me. It wasn’t as bad as the last time but it was still solemn enough to haunt me every now and then. The first was when a friend reached out to let me know that another friend of ours had died. Well, she had been a little more than a friend at one point. The reason for it was a mystery but I suspected depression. Soon after, a friend from high school died. Hers from a spinal surgery gone wrong. There was a third I was worried about whose life had been spinning down the tubes and mental state had been deteriorating for months. When I finally got a hold of her (it had been a while), she was far down a hole of what looked to be schizophrenia, heavy drugs or both. According to her, she was being group stalked. Sometimes by families that looked like regular people. She had gotten kicked out of her house and driven as far north from California as Oregon and then back to Phili where she was from. It spooked me. The whole series did. It was reminding me too much of the four people I had lost three years before.
A week after that was happy days again. It was staycation time! An acquaintance in the military reserves who was stationed in Busan came to visit. I hadn’t found cheese when we made the plan so when he showed up, he brought a huge block of cheddar. Oh sweet happy heaven! That would have to wait though since, getting off work late on Friday, we headed straight to an expat spot called Surfer Bar Goofy Foot where we had fun hanging with strangers and eating Western food. I even ran into the guy I had make out with on the 4th. Then to my dismay, we stayed in a hotel (give me a B&B or a hostel) and woke up for a day of enjoying one of the island’s waterfalls. Jeongbang Waterfall was the only in Asia that fell directly into the ocean. It was a treat until he fell on some big wet boulders and smacked his head. The waterfall had been so loud, I hadn’t even heard it. What I did hear was the people standing behind me gasp. God forbid they actually do something. When I turned around, he was sprawled with limbs in every direction like a cartoon that had splatted after a long drop. In hindsight, I probably should have taken him to a hospital to get checked out. Instead, we just sat for a while with me watching him and asking questions. Do you have a headache? How is your vision? All that. Once I wasn’t too worried anymore, it was time for the dad jokes to come out. And oh baby was I on a roll.
He took the “fall” in waterfall a little too seriously.
He really wanted to hit that shit.
He was still truckin even with a concussion.
Cracking myself up as we continued following the path along the coast, we came to another small waterfall and a library that had big windows showcasing a beautiful ocean view. Carrying on on from there, we next stumbled upon a restaurant of Spanish architecture that I just loved. Finally a structure that was little more than a soulless concrete box. Ordering an affocato and not knowing what it was (but having seen on multiple menus), I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was espresso with ice cream. The chocolate cake though, bla. Bland and dry, you’d think that a culture so into sweets would be better at that.
Heading out once the sun started to set and the mosquitoes were becoming too much, we ran into that guy I had made out with for the second time within 24 hours. It felt like some weird double date with the men talking while me and the gal he was there with did the same. While I’m no stranger to outside the box situations, it was still a little confusing and awkward. Especially since my friend and I were in no way a romantic connect and I was digging the chick more than either of the guys.
Saying our goodbyes, we made our way to a guest house I had booked (same thing as a hostel) called Gudeok (구덕게스트하우스). Way more my flavor than the hotel, I adored how many personal and creative touches there were. It was a small business owned by real people and I could feel the life of those who had stayed there before. The owner even pointed us in the direction of our highlight for the evening when referring us to a yummy Korean BBQ spot for dinner. Stumbling upon an entertaining surprise while trying to find it, one of the short barrier walls on the street showcased some R rated art that we were enjoying until realizing that he had indeed been following us (as we suspected) from across the street to make sure we could find it. Good thing as we had walked right past.
Trying a little too hard to find some fun after that, we found a bar but it was mostly dead. Meeting some folks right as we were getting ready to leave, it proved once again what a bad idea it was to go for a second wind when drinking. More specifically, a woman from that group got weirdly attached to me and we ended up having some kind of odd drunkie breakup of mixed languages with my telling her she was a kingpin in some organized crime circuit. It was really odd and kind of funny.
Getting totally lost as we tried to find our way back to the guest house, I was ready to strangle my buddy for not even try to help navigate. It had been driving me bananas since he got there. He would just look around, sometimes even going ahead of me, while I struggled to figure it out. Talk about the blind leading the blind. It was also getting to me that I was paying for a lot. Lame. We weren’t close and I was half showing him around as a favor in the way travelers do. Still, I knew I was too uptight about stuff like that, so told myself to calm my tits as we stumbled on.
Having gotten so lost trying to find our way back meant that we didn’t get there until after dawn and didn’t get up until being woken up by staff knocking to clean the room at checkout time. Feeling bad for not having made sure I had been respectful in setting an alarm, I got even more frustrated when having such a hard time getting him up. There was no way I was getting him and the massive hangover on the bus once downstairs so I called for an expensive cab ride to take us back through the windy forest path to my place on the other side of the island. Getting back to my place early afternoon, I slept for a couple hours and then hung on the floor with my laptop while he slept off his hangover until he had to head to the airport. What a weekend.
Every month came with a few general observation. One I didn’t like was how there were no public trash cans. One I did was that there were baby horse foals everywhere and I got to see them whenever I took the bus. One that I found perplexing was that the people of the island didn’t seem to be very physical. I just didn’t understand that when living in a place with such beautiful nature. A cool one was that, when finding a chicken and beer place around the corner from my pad (score), there was a sink right there by the register for washing hands. Odd but I was super into it. Hurray for being sanitary!
One of my treats for the month was getting to pup-sit a rescue named Honey for a woman I met at volleyball and her fiance. Another was stumbling upon some cool stuff at a bus transfer on my way to a hike in the forest and deciding to go with it. Checking out some horses, I then found a tiny joint for my first hamburger on the island that I got to enjoy`with a sweet furry friend. After that, I found Ilchul Land. An “ecological and cultural attraction” that had a cave to cool off in with an awesome art installation inside it. It was easily one of my highlights on the island to that point. sentimental fool that I was, I admit to having even teared up a bit.
The insanely oppressive heat and humidity may have been killing the fun to a certain extent but still, those great times were what was keeping me going. Even so, the stress from E**R was starting to show and I wasn’t getting enough rest. The fact was, I didn’t even know how to. Decompression and time at home weren’t my thing. Regardless of knowing that we all needed it every now and again, the rare moments I was able to get myself to do it (let alone enjoy it) still managed to surprise me. That’s what made the grand finale for the month all that much better. Enjoying relaxing while watching the movie Sideways with good wine and fancy cheese. It was the perfect goodbye to July.