Monday, May 19, 2014

A Normal Weekday Morning Commute in Seoul

As I lay here on my bed, looking out the window of my 13th floor apartment at all the cars riding along on the highway, and at all the lights of the city, I sit here wondering what to write.  Recently, I've felt the urge to write more, almost as if someone important, whom I don't know, is reading.  To that person, whoever you are, Hello.  Thanks for reading.  God bless you.

I am fairly entrenched into a routine here.  I have friends.  Everyday, I wake up, get ready for work, walk out the door of my apartment, wait for the elevator, step in when the door opens, sit and wait for a few seconds for it to touch down on the first floor.  Sometimes, it stops on it's way down at a floor in between mine and the first, and someone steps in.  Sometimes the face is familiar, but most of the time, it isn't.  If it's an attractive lady, and she is flirty, sometimes I say something to break the ice.  But most of the time, I sit silently, stand tall, and stare straight ahead at the closed door, and so does the other person, as the elevator descends.

I step out of the elevator, and walk into the lobby to greet the security guard, before walking out the door front door of the building.  He knows everybody that lives in the building.  Every resident knows him, and greets him also, just like I do.

I step out of the front door near the busy road that runs a few yards away.  The sound of traffic dominates, including the hum of cars, and the roar of busses.  I have to turn my headphones up rather loud in order to hear my music and podcasts clearly over it.

I walk a few feet to the bus stop to wait once again.  In my year of living here at this particular place, I've never seen the same person more than once at this particular bus stop, and I am pretty good at recognizing faces, even those of people I don't know personally.  Seoul is a big city, and so is my neighborhood.

Some days, I have to wait longer than others.  When the bus comes, I see usually the second familiar face of the day, and usually, it's the last until I arrive at work, and that being the bus driver.  There are around five to ten different buses that run along that route.  I know the faces of each driver, and they know the faces of many of the regulars.  They know mine, at least.  The kinder ones smile upon seeing me, and say "hello," and "welcome" in Korean.  I like it when they do that.

I normally sit alone in my seat, sometimes I have to stand when it's crowded, as my music or podcast plays through my white Apple headphones.  (To see my taste in music, and to get an idea of what is played in the mornings, check out my Twitter feed on the right side of this page.  There are always links to stuff I like.  As far as podcasts, I really enjoy The Rich Eisen Podcast, The Fighter and the Kid, In the NO, and The MMA Hour.  Sometimes I like Bill Simmons, and I always listen to Zack Lowe and Jalen Rose on Grantland.)

The bus that I take takes me to the subway station.

Korean bus drivers have absolutely zero consideration for the passengers.  They slam on the breaks extremely hard at bus stops and stop lights, sometimes throwing people.  They hit the accelerator just as hard.  They are terrible at shifting gears, and working the clutch smoothly.  The bus ride to the subway station is always rough, but the music and podcasts make it more pleasant.

After the bus driver slams on the breaks at my stop, I exit the bus, and begin weaving through the people at the crowded bus stop near the subway station.  I continue weaving through people as I walk along the crowded sidewalk that is lined with cafes on one side, and twenty-four-hour street food tents.  Because most of it is fried, and because it's rather unhealthy, I never eat the street food, even though sometimes I am interested in how it tastes.  If I'm craving fried food, I'll eat something better, so I am always able to talk myself out of stopping and trying it.

Koreans walk really slowly.  At least to me, they do, so I find myself weaving through them whenever I am walking anywhere in the city.  This is especially true during my morning commute.  It's refreshing whenever a Korean is walking at least at the same pace as I am in front of me.

As I enter the entrance to the subway, I climb down a rather long set of stairs, and weave through an underground market full of vendors setting up for the day.  In this particular subway station, in the mornings, I seem to be going against the morning traffic, because a lot more people are getting off of the train, and walking in the opposite direction through the underground market, some of them in a rush and running, many of them being ladies in skirts and high heels.  I'm really impressed at their ability to run in them without tripping, or even stumbling.

Sometimes there are so many people who are walking in the opposite direction that it feels and looks like I am walking against wave after wave of a high tide of Korean people.

My station is one where numerous people exit the train in the mornings, and few enter, so there is almost always a seat available upon entering.  When the train stops at the next station, the train suddenly becomes packed with people, as the people who are standing have to squeeze to make room, and it remains that way for the duration of my thirty minute subway trip.

When I exit the train, it's like a tale of two subway stops.  I leave my neighborhood full of business people, and young professionals who are in a hurry, and the train takes me to the neighborhood where I teach, where the sidewalks seem full of Korean mothers slowly and leisurely pushing baby carriages in a sea of high-end high rise apartments.

As I enter my school at 11:00am, the school day is in full swing for the children and other teachers.  I suddenly see familiar faces again.  I see children playing in the soccer field in front of my school, and the P.E. teachers organizing them.  I walk into my school, and I see some of my students wandering the hallways.  I walk up the stairs to my room on the 4th floor.  I take a right, and see the kind and attractive 4th grade teachers teaching their classes across the hall from my classroom.  I briefly enter my classroom to drop off my things, turn on the lights, and power on the computer.  Then as I exit, I make my way to my co-teacher's class room down the hall to check in, and receive a quick briefing before preparing for the day.

1 comment:

  1. Good to read your blog and know you're still there. Emily and I are looking to come back for a while. We're pretty excited, but not happy about the process of getting there all over again.