Thursday, August 31, 2006

processing: summer

Before my trip, the frustration of my expat existence had built up to a point where everything felt unbearable. More and more things became "impossible." For example: Hot tea, possible. Iced tea, possible. Coffee, possible. Iced coffee, possible. Chai tea latte, possible. Iced chai tea latte (what I want), impossible. A cup of ice and a cup of chai tea latte, possible after a ridiculous amount of coaxing. Good thing I didn't bother asking for soy milk. Meanwhile I started to find more and more illogical things that are "possible" in the collective Korean psyche, like year long pregnancies or fan death.

There were words I didn't want to let myself write, things I didn't want to let myself think, and emotions I wanted to deny, so I buried myself in the work, erected a force field around myself, and hid inside playing with fantasies between my headphones. Harsh beats, like the good hurt, throb through and rush from one to the other. I throw the flow round my dome. The music helps to drown out the nonsense and numb my consciousness. Yet, still... cursing at people under my breath, agonizing over simple things like riding the subway, and holding grudges against an entire culture; these things are not me. I don't know this person.
I had this dream.
I'm at a place where two tall buildings are close together, very close together. I have to go down this long and extremely narrow passageway, otherwise I'll get caught. Someone is coming. I can only go through if I turn sideways completely. I feel claustrophobic and afraid. The thoughts quickly churn through my mind. If I go now I can get away, but they might be able to shoot me anyway, but this is my only chance. I go. Focusing on the sky directly above beyond the buildings is the only thing that slightly calms me. I have to face my fear of this claustrophobic space in order to survive.
Please don't do that.
That thing you do when you get irritated and don't acknowledge the things I feel. They, my feelings, are valid--just as my positive, joyful, fantastic ones are. While they aren't all logical, to you, please allow me to express them.

Now, suddenly, there are somethings I cannot say, things I cannot express.
Not a good sign.
Please don't do that.
compunction (n.)
1. anxiety or deep unease proceeding from a sense of guilt or consciousness of causing pain
2. a sting of conscious or a tinge of uneasiness; a qualm; a scruple.
And that was it. It had built up too much. I could tolerate no more. NEED SPACE, QUIET, AIR.

Deeply, I found myself wanting to love this place, these people, this language, where I am, what I eat, what I do, how I exist here... like I did when I first came.
I wanted that fresh new feeling again.
Going away for a while was the perfect remedy.

I never thought I'd be so relieved, so pleased, so thrilled to return to Seoul. It is still "a foreign country," but it's the one I know. I still can't do everything, or understand everything, but I can do so much more than I have given myself credit for. Simple things: being able to read, giving directions to a cab driver, being able to figure out if a place is a store or what(?), knowing where I will rest myself, when I will be able to take my next shower, how I will get to the next place I need to go, or how much something actually costs.

Good to be home.

1 comment:

LazyCat said...

Beautiful post. I am glad you were able to get some space--and that it helped.

I identify so much with the frustration you describe even though I am sure what I have experienced is just the tiniest fraction of what you're really talking about.