My God — life!

A tale of Seoul and Cat’s Cradle

Via Meg Robichaud
“My God — life! Who can understand even one minute of it? ‘Don’t try,’ he said; ‘Just pretend you understand.’ ‘That’s — that’s very good advice.’ I went limp.”

“And now,” David announced, “It’s time to put your phone down.”

I walked across the bedroom over to the small table by the door, where it would be beyond reach and beyond temptation.

I looked at David, expectantly. He pulled out his eReader. “And now,” he repeated for emphasis, “let us read from the book of Cat’s Cradle and the tales of Frank Hoenecker and San Lorenzo.”

“And ‘Papa’ Monzana,” I added.

“And ‘Papa’ Monzana,” he repeated, solemnly.

“And…” dramatic pause. “And the scientific marvel that is the Ice 9.”

I had had the idea a few months ago that David and I should read a book together. I couldn’t remember what had inspired me to do it. An article I read, maybe?

Together, we had decided on Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and every couple of nights or so, when we remembered or weren’t too tired, we read a couple of chapters together. I had initially intended for us to take turns reading, but after the first few times, we stopped trading off, and David read every time. I liked his reading cadence and loved the voices he affected for the characters. Especially Angela. That bitch.

I rolled onto my side to get comfortable.

“My God — life!” David read.

Who can understand even one minute of it? ‘Don’t try,’ he said; ‘Just pretend you understand.’ ‘That’s — that’s very good advice.’ I went limp.”

My mind began to wander, ever-so-slightly. I was thinking about my life, particularly two years earlier, before we left Seoul. I remembered cold winter nights, sitting on the ondol floors, working on blog posts, weekends in coffee shops with David, editing his manuscript.

We had moved to Seoul to seek opportunity. We were newlyweds and looking for adventure and a way to pay the bills. Teaching English in Korea had sort of fallen into our laps.

We taught all day, from 9:20 am to 5:30 pm, with an hour break at some point in the day.

I loved my preschool classes. The elementary tutoring sessions I could sort of do without. But I loved my little munchkins, trying as they were. And if I scrunch my eyes closed tight enough, I can almost recall the voices of the four and five-year-olds intoning, “Mick Tea-cher!”

I miss their sticky hugs and whiny complaints and surprisingly sophisticated questions. I miss morning circle time with Penguin Class, as they chanted together, “How are you today?!” And when the little sneaks would respond with some variation of, “I am happy today because I love Mick teacher,” my heart would melt. Every time. Even though I knew they were just trying to suck up to me…

I miss it all the same.

I don’t miss the upside down weeks of jetlag or that time David and I both got pneumonia. Worse still was that persistent infection that required injections everyday after work for two weeks. In the butt. Oh, and that damn Siberian wind in the winter.

I miss kimbap and bulgogi. Even kimchi. I miss the cafes around every corner and the shopping in Sinsa. And Dongdaemun. And Gangnam. I miss the subway, and the hustle and bustle of their neighborhood. The fruit trucks with their blaring announcements.

My reverie about Korean stationery was interrupted by David.

“Hey,” he said. “How about we stop here for now?”

“Yeah. Okay.”