I slept without waking to an alarm clock during reasonable hours for the first time in quite a few weeks. It began my day well.
I was supposed to meet a girl downtown for lunch who I had met in at the T-bird's Halloween shindig. She agreed to meet, but never responded to my last text where I suggested meeting at Kyobo at 1:30, so I wasn't sure if she'd be there. I called her a couple times (she didn't answer) and hung around the bookstore for a bit, willing myself not to buy anything because I just sent all my money back to the US to pay bills and I have tons of unread books in my apartment. I was just about to leave and go grab lunch when a cute, Korean guy approached me.
"Hello, where are you from?"
"Hello. I'm from America."
"I am a student from Kyungbuk University, and since you are a native speaker, I was hoping I could practice my English with you."
Well, I'm thinking, at least he's up front about using me for English practice. I agree to speak with him (although normally I prefer to practice my Korean with random Koreans I've just met). While he's cute, I'm not feeling much of a connecting vibe--being used for my English and all--so I tell him I haven't had lunch and need to go eat.
"Do you mind if we ate together and could continue our conversation?" He grins sheepishly. He has a very cute grin. I'm a sucker for these things.
He doesn't like Indian food (which is what I was craving), so I suggest Japanese instead. He's from Daegu and says he knows a place to get great Japanese. Walking around downtown he says his English (confirmation--he's Catholic) name is Simon. We're getting along pretty well at this point, so I'm thinking it's cool and then...
We end up at the food court of Dong-A department store.
Now, I'm a pretty laid back gal when it comes to where and what to eat if I'm hanging out with my new cute Korean pal who is openly using me for language practice, but even I know better places to get less pricey sushi in town and I've not even been here three months.
But the food ended up being decent with a moderately sized plate for about $5, so I was relaxing and thinking things were cool again. But then the check comes and he not only fails to offer to pay, but doesn't give me the change from my $10 (man won) bill! Ugh.
He offers me Baskin Robbins as a present for helping him practice language and I want to ask him for my change instead, but I hadn't had good ice cream in such a long time. I'm a sucker for almond mocha fudge...
It's my own fault really for volunteering to be a language whore, but I still think it's just bad manners to steal someone's change unless they're offering to pay for you!
After being stood up, or something, and spending too much on food that wasn't Indian, I thought I'd cheer myself up with a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato and reading the rest of Siddhartha before meeting my book discussion book. Good decision. Very good decision. So good, in fact, that I got two. And went back to Kyobo to treat myself to Candace Bushnell's Sex in the City, the collection of columns about New York life upon which the tv show is based.
Later I meandered over to Italy Italy to meet up with the book group. I knew Meg from Korean class at the YMCA, but I'd only met Mike once before when he was drunk and hadn't met Nick or Tim before. However, this turned a strange but eventful day into a really great and memorable one as we started discussing the search for meaning in Siddhartha's life and comparing it to our own choice to live abroad. We had some really amazing intellectual conversation, the first bottle of red wine I've had in about three months, and awesome make-your-own pasta. I'd forgotten how much I thrive on discussions of spiritual debate. I have a lot from that meeting I'll be chewing over in my mind for the next few days or longer. Once I have some sorted out, I may post here about it. Or not. We'll see...
Our next book is (at my suggestion) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I'm quite excited. I've not read Marquez before, but given my love for magical realism, interest in Hispanic literature/culture, and the high recommendations this book has gotten from people I know whose tastes I respect, it should be a fine choice.
The best part of today, I realized on the subway right home, is how normal everything felt. I keep thinking I have to have big, exciting adventures to make my life abroad more interesting, but when it comes down to it, it's the simple everyday connections and the openness to possibilities of all kinds that makes life exciting. And fulfilling.
It's almost like coming here has turned the mundane exotic--and that's a pretty awesome feeling.