May 20, 2007

just like that

I've been here two months.

I wish I could say work completely eats up the time and I haven't noticed it pass, but slow weekends bring down the pace and are starting to shrink this town around me. The smallness of it is restrictive like a wool turtleneck itching to be shed.

And sometimes it feels like a I'm swimming in a fishbowl, always being stared at, little kids tapping on the glass. Maybe there's too much accusation in that sentiment and not enough patience, but the feeling of being on display can be perpetual torment if you let it, and sometimes it's hard not to let it. I know no one means any harm, but every time I greet someone only to hear an eruption of laughter, I have these pissed-off disgruntled flare-ups.

None of these kids is laughing at me, they're laughing because they're embarrassed. When they attempt some basic English and get a response, it's not casual, it's a big event, it's like acing a test, and nervous laughter is the only way they deal (at least, this is the logical explanation I continue to tell myself).

Still, the sound of someone laughing nervously feels exactly like when you walk into a room and you know someone's just been talking about you. I make screwed-up face and sulk away hissing, "shut up!"

But then they're always chasing after me, the next one in the group wanting to try some English too, yelling, "nice to meet you, NICEEE to meet YOU!"

(I met them two months ago and obviously haven't taught them anything - I can only laugh too.)

Between the fishbowl and the kids peering into it, half the time I think my stubborn streak will make me stay here the entire year no matter how small it gets, no matter how often I feel like a guppy, and the other half of the time I'm already on a plane.

Looking forward to escaping captivity, planning little weekend walkabouts, is the only though that really gets me by (that and the internet).

This weekend I'll be going to Seoul for the first time! It probably seems so small a thing for all the Canadians who call Seoul a temporary home, but for me two months into this in Jeongseon, it's huge.


Sam said...

I'd love to be able to say that the fishbowl feeling goes away... but they really love tapping on that glass and pulling stupid faces.

It's like knowing about one-tenth of what it's like to be famous, and then understanding why celebrities are always whining about their privacy.

In Seoul you can be anonymous at least. But in small towns we will always be watched, giggled about, and hit with the barrage of "hi-ee!", "nice to met you!" (does crossing paths constitue 'meeting'?) or failing that, "Hey! Hey, you! Handsome guy!" (not sure if they're taking a piss or not...)

Anyway. Skin gets thick, and though as you said, it's nervous not mocking laughter (most of the time...) some days it's hard not to take personally.

lisa said...

but you LOVE being the centre of attention!