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13 working days and counting. Suddenly, I'm slightly less happy about going back to Canada, because of events this past weekend. More specifically, I'm discovering how much it sucks to meet your ideal woman just one month before you're supposed to leave the country.

For those of you just tuning in, I'm in South Korea, where I've been teaching English the last two years. This weekend was crazy in many ways, but Saturday night particularly so. I went to Elvis, the local watering hole around 9 PM and met up with my friend Peter, a British guy. He was there with three other guys, two more Brits and another Canadian. Feeling a wee bit delicate after a wild Friday night of drinking, I was planning on taking it easy that night. Wishful thinking.

After one Long Island Iced Tea at Elvis, the guys decided they'd head down the street to another bar, "JJ's." Had a bottle of Corona there (still taking it easy) and then we left to a third bar, Gan-i-yeok.

At Gan-i-yeok, we all got a pint of beer and split two bottles of maeshil-ju (green plum wine) and some delicious little meat and vegetable skewers. Then the guys decided they wanted to go to a fourth bar, Blue Moon (to which I'd never been) and hit on the beautiful bartenders there. Peter and I decided to stay on at Gan-i-yeok and have another bottle of maeshil-ju, but told them we'd catch up with them later.

Maybe 40 minutes later, now starting to get a buzz going, Peter and I walk to Blue Moon, maybe half a dozen blocks away. It's actually quite a nice place, with a really high ceiling and a city-scape painted on the wall behind the bar. Like most so-called "jazz bars" in Korea, no actual jazz gets played there.

All the seats around where our friends are sitting are taken, and they're too caught up in flirting with the girls behind the bar to be of much use as company, so Peter and I go sit down at the other end of the bar where there are some free seats. Half an hour later, two Korean girls show up and sit down next to me. They know Peter from Elvis, and tell me that they recognize me from there too, although we'd never been introduced. One of them is Nan Hi, a somewhat unusual name for a Korean girl, and the other's name passes in one ear and out the other because it's something ending in Jung and I can never tell them apart. I swear 80% of women in Korea are named Eun Jung, Su Jung, Eun Kyung, Su Kyung, So Jung, Sun Young, etc. Anyway, they both speak excellent English, having been overseas for several years. Nan Hi was in New Zealand. I don't know about the other one.

Here's the thing, though. I start talking to them, and Nan Hi and I just click. I mean really click. Like I've never clicked with anyone before. I'm a motormouth. I talk way too much, especially when I'm drunk. Sometimes I can tell that I'm boring people and try to speak less, but then I go too far the other way and never say a thing all night. But Nan Hi doesn't mind. In fact, she loves it. Every time I seem like I might be running out of steam, she asks me a question or prompts me to go on, and she's eating up my words like a monkey eats bananas. She's really impressed that I can (sort of) speak Korean, and play a pretty decent game of Badouk (or Go, as we more often call it). Like me, she loves to read, and like me, she dreams of one day being a writer herself. She loves to listen to Tom Waits, just as I do. She thinks that it's cool, not boring, that I studied physics at university, and still have a passion for it. She's intelligent, independent and ambitious. In other words, she's everything Korean men don't expect their women to be. She's everything I want, and it's starting to look like the feeling might be mutual.

To test this theory, once we've mutually maneuvered the conversation in the direction of girlfriends and boyfriends, and confirmed that we're both single, I go on a hunch and guess that she's older than me.

Me: My problem, in Canada as well, but especially in Korea, is that I don't like girls my own age or younger (this is true). They all act like babies.
Nan Hi: They have gongju byeong, you mean? (gongju byeong = "princess disease")
Me: Exactly. They have gongju byeong. I tend to like women a few years older than me (I'd already told her my age: 25). Like around 30. Speaking of which, how old are you anyway?
Nan Hi (smiling): 29.
Me: Cool. You know, we have a word in English for older women who like younger men. We call them cougars.
Nan Hi (still smiling): Actually, I'm a cougar.
Me: And I'm easy prey for cougars.
Nan Hi laughs.

At this point, I know I'm in like Flynn, and I'm drunk enough that the two parts of my brain containing - respectively - the information that I like this girl a lot and she clearly likes me and the information that I'm going home in a month have not gotten together and realized that this is a problem.

We spend the night drinking and chatting, moving on to yet another bar, Beer Boss at around 4 AM (by this point, the other Canadian guy is clearly going to get laid by Nan Hi's friend, who seemed a bit slutty... Nan Hi was very disapproving), and then from there to a soju tent at around 6 AM. By 7 AM I'm thoroughly drunk, and decide to try to seal the deal by putting my arm around Nan Hi. She doesn't protest. When we're leaving, I said something, I can't remember exactly what, to suggest that she might like to come back to my apartment with me. She says "Actually, I really like you. I want to. But I still live with my parents, and they're probably already awake. The later I get home, the harder it will be to explain to them." That's Korea for you. Where else in the world would you have this problem with a 30 year-old? Anyway, it's probably just as well, since my apartment is a pigsty right now, and there's a strong possibility that I would have been too drunk to get it up anyway.

We share a taxi, and I get dropped off first. "Alex, popo juseyo," she says, and points to her cheek. I give her a peck goodbye, as requested, and go into my apartment to collapse into the deep, dreamless sleep of the incredibly drunk and exhausted.

Stupid me forgot to get her phone number, but fortunately, she'd used my cell phone to call her friend, whatever-the-fuck-Jung, that night, so that number was stored in my phone. I sent a text message to her, and got Nan Hi's number that way. Text messaged Nan Hi, then, and got a response. She then called me that night, without having anything in particular to say, which is always a good sign. We haven't made specific plans to meet again in the future, but both indicated that we wish to do so.

Anyway, she's wonderful. Talking to her, the rest of the world disappeared, and I think it did for her, too. Only once have I ever gotten off to such a great start with a girl, and Sheila ended up being my girlfriend for a year and a half, a relationship that only got broken off because I was finishing university and leaving, and we both felt that it was better to break up than try to preserve a long-distance relationship.

This is all well and good, except that I've got a non-refundable plane ticket to Canada, leaving August 12, 2003, and I'll be out of Suncheon in just three weeks from now. I wonder if she's the kind of girl who'd pack up and move halfway around the world with a guy she just met. Probably not.

I was talking to a friend of mine who goes to Drexel; sitting in the living room, we found his roommate's paystub. Out of curiousity, we looked at it to see how much he makes at his co-op. "$20? An hour?!"

"Well, yeah, I guess that's pretty decent for a co-op," my friend said.

"What do you mean, 'decent'?--he makes twice what I make!"

"You should've been an engineer," he said. (Pause) "Wait--how much do you make a week?"

"On a good week? I take home $350."

He grimaced.

"Wanna know how much I made at Barnes & Noble? If I was lucky and they let me work a full week, I made about $250. IF I was lucky."

Suddenly I realized how much he must be making at his coöp--and he's not even out of college, he hasn't even graduated. Suddenly I understand why he can go to so many concerts, buy so many cds and DVDs, why he can go out to dinner or to the bar. And suddenly I realize why he doesn't understand why I worry about money.

My cousin just graduated from college with her BSN--Bachelors of Science in Nursing. She starts at $23/hr. That's twice what I'm making. My mother--a nurse--says to me, "Now, don't you want to go into nursing?" No. I can't stand blood. I can't stand needles. And I'm a hypochondriac to boot. But even if I did decide to become a nurse, it would mean quitting my job and going back to school. Frankly, I can't afford that.

And that's my problem. I can barely afford to live. I stupidly signed a lease for an apartment that costs $550/mo. This is more than a third of my monthly pay. This DOES include heat, water, and gas. This DOES NOT include electricity, food, phone, cable, car, internet and other living expenses I can't think of right now. SO! Goodbye cable (no big loss), DSL (no small loss--and I'm even thinking of getting rid of the internet all together), going out with friends, going to shows, going to the movies, buying CDs and DVDs. I will eat generic food (no big deal), walk everywhere (actually better for me), and try to live without air conditioning in a third floor, one room apartment in a very hot brownstone. I will--I guess--eschew the middle class comforts I grew up with so that I can pay the necessary bills and pay off my credit cards.

Yes, I know, quit whining.

But what angers me is that I make so little. That after four years of college and a semester of grad school, that after graduating summa cum laude, I've come to the realization that I wasted my time. That I studied English, which was fine when I wanted to teach, but now that I know I have no desire to, I have no practical skills. I'm competing against a lot of other English majors who DIDN'T go to a state school (i.e., the lowest of the colleges), who DID work on the student paper or who DID have internships, while I worked a part-time job through college instead. These people are much better prepared, they have better connections, they went to better schools--not even ivy league! They could've gone to Swathmore, or less, Villanova, or less, Penn State, or even less, Temple, and they're still better off than me. And all I know how to do is type fast. Big fucking deal.

I have no skills or connections which will get me a job that's better than a clerk in a library. I can't even afford to go back to school and get a masters in... well, what? I don't know what I want to do with my life. Or, well, I do, but I can't, because I don't have either the foot in the door or the talent to keep me there if I did.

So I better get used to living paycheck to paycheck, because that's what you do when you've got nothing you can do except for little monkey jobs like this. Maybe I'll get a second job. Maybe I can get Barnes & Noble to give me some part-time work; I left them on good terms. Temple is talking about outsourcing my job, too. Maybe I'll end up at B&N permanently, if I can't get a job with whoever they outsource to.

And I watch my younger sister--who has no debt, who is living with our parents--go back to school to study to be a veternary technician. I don't want to know how much she'll make. I don't want to know if she goes on to become a vet. I don't want to know how much more she's getting out of her job than I'll ever get out of mine.

Yesterday I was listening to Studio 360, a magazine program on NPR. The show was about the shore, and they were at Coney Island with They Might Be Giants, talking about the shore, and what it means, especially on the East Coast, to go down the shore. See, it's different, I guess, from California, especially if you're from the Northeast. To go down the shore, well, it's temporary, and so the trip is usually tinged like a Sunday, knowing that the fun is transitory, and will end very soon. They talked about sandcastles, and how creating a sandcastle is a sort of intense art that is ultimately doomed. It isn't semi-permanent, like a painting, like a record, and so there's something sad, something transitory, like the shore.

And the shore has all these associations (especially for myself) with trying to recapture something. Maybe reliving your childhood. Maybe reliving something that's gone from the very fast, cellphone and email lifestyle back in the city.

And so I'm listening, and the band does this version of the Beach Boys' "Caroline, No" that just about stops me in my car. And I'm holding back, trying not to cry. Which is strange. Maybe it's because my mom loves the Beach Boys, maybe it's because I react kinda strongly to music, maybe it's because I'm just really frustrated right now, but all I wanted to do--all I ever seem to want to do--is just turn my car around and head for the shore. Live off of crabs and clams I dig out of the bay. Maybe sleep with the foxes in the wildlife preserve on Ocean City, where the lifeguards and cops aren't crawling around, looking for people to bust. I could just live on the beach, by myself, and not have to worry anymore. I could dream about pirates, like I did as a kid. I could look for Blackbeard's lost treasure in Cape May.

But I know I won't. Just like I won't be a writer, or an actor, or a musician. Just like I won't make more than the $350/wk that I make now.

So there it is. I think it's time I accept my fate. Get it over with. And stop whining.

That's how it's spelt, right?

No I'm not.
Just bored... staring at things I've done. That's not narcissism, is it? I'm not in love with myself, but I am proud of things that I can do, that I never thought I would be able to. Besides, what else am I going to do? I stare because I can't add any more wonderful crap. At least now I am working on a website that I know for sure many other people gawk at.
I get complimented on my work, but it isn't good enough in my eyes. So many things to learn, so many things to update... it's not done, it's not done..

It will never be done. We know this.

Who is "we"?

It doesn't matter. Hush.

Being a part of a CounterStrike/DoD team is fun. I'm not very good at first-person shooters, really, but that doesn't matter. Because I stink (and also because I'm dating the leader), I've been promoted to webmaster for the CS portion of the site. Hooray.
They tell me I'm doing a much better job than the other guy, whose layout is sorta boring.


I happen to like a lot of colour. And I'm sort of a Photoshop addict. So the site takes forever to load.. there are so many pictures...

Five of us are going to a LAN on the 19th. Apparently they're having trouble securing a fifth player - if it turns out they only have four, then I get to go as a sort of last resort. I'm not insulted; I suck.
It would be interesting to go. I'm told very few girls attend CS LANs... it would be intimidating, since I'm pretty bad at what everyone else is good at, but it would be fun, anyway.
Originally, I wanted to come even if they didn't need me. As a spectator. But it's eight hours of CounterStrike. That's eight hours of nothing for a spectator.. even one as bent on being team photographer as I am. No, if I go, I don't want to be sitting on the sidelines. I'd much rather play.

It's interesting, the opportunities that are suddenly being presented. IF we advertise for the next LAN, we get a free public server to play on. Normally, those run up to $100 or more per month. We're paying 20 a year for our site domain; we just don't have the funds for anything more than that.
We're pretty friendly with the guy who's running the LAN, and he says he might be setting up a cybercafé near where the majority of our team lives. If we help out with the setting up of the networks and whatever else he needs (probably more advertising, but that's perfectly fine), he'll sponsor our team, and we all get jobs there.
Which kicks ass, because I'm flat broke and unemployed. Hooray for me.

I wonder how easy this will all be when I'm in college and have a ton of homework to complete every night.
I might as well get used to very little sleep. It seems to be a surety in my near future.

A year ago

He works with me

He plays with me

He hikes with me

He waits for me

He helps me

He enjoys me

He understands me

He forgives me

He laughs with me

He shares with me

He learns from me

He teaches me

He appreciates me

He empathizes with me

He wants happiness for me

He inspires me

He astounds me

He has faith in me

He has hope for me

He loves me

He thrills me

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