The Quick and Dirty Guide to Seoul City Buses

27 10 2008

Since apparently I can’t make it two weeks without falling ill to some horrid cold or stomach thing, I’ve taken to riding a lot of public transportation lately. Taking the subway tacks on an extra 20 or so minutes to the trek to work, so I prefer the bus. If I weren’t such an impatient thing, though, because the bus requires a little extra strength in the morning. Let me explain…

Waiting at the bus stop seems innocent enough. I usually read a book, but most people bob their heads to their music or simply stand patiently. The moment the bus pulls in all hell breaks loose. Everyone starts trying to gauge where the bus is going to stop and push their way to the front. Believe it or not (if you’ve ever been to Seoul, you’d believe it!) the old ladies are the worst.

Once the bus doors open it’s a mad scramble to allow the departing passengers through while simultaneously struggling to jam your body in an already full to bursting bus. Overcrowded doesn’t do the situation justice. If I manage to get my body in instead of backing off and waiting for the next bus I invite strangers closer to me than most guys I’ve dated (just kidding, but seriously, it’s intense). It’s a good day if my head is only in the armpit of one of my fellow passengers. I realized this morning that taking a banana in my purse was a catastrophic mistake without one of those sweet banana cases.

In addition to the sardine can-like conditions, Seoul buses are notoriously nausea-inducing. For whatever reason (traffic, *coughbaddriverscough*) Seoul city buses lurch around like the brake was only invented for near collisions, and the gas pedal must be pumped at all times. This creates a lovely sensation that a lesser stomach might find unbearable. Not to mention at high traffic times finding a handle (if you are too shy to subject a Korean to your armpit, at least) can be a daunting task. Learning to ride the bus is harder than learning to surf, and I can attest to that!

In any case, I’ve compiled a few of my tried and true tactics to handle the (sometimes) unfortunate necessity that is the Seoul city bus.

1. If at all possible, wait for the next bus. My bus tends to come pretty often in the morning, and to try to jam onto the first available can be quite stressful and uncomfortable. Give yourself some extra time!

2. Set your stance wide. It will give you just the slightest bit of room to do things such as maintain blood circulation and keep track of your belongings.

3. Try not to let people breathe on you. As wonderful as your Listerine might be, others won’t always extend the same courtesy. Just the other day I had a man belch in my face. Thanks for that, sir.

4. Swipe your pass well before the bus comes to the stop. Most likely it won’t make a difference in fare enough to matter, and that way no one will give you the death stare or attempt to slice off your arm as you try to swipe and exit.

5. Maintain a good attitude and patience. There will always be that obnoxious person behind you trying to get closer to the door when you need to get off too, but there’s nothing gained from acting like an asshole. Plus if you are one of the two or three white people that EVER ride the bus it’s good to show a little respect for spreading the love between cultures and whatnot.

Despite the pains of the bus, it’s well worth the time saved in getting around the city and can open up many more places that you might not be likely to discover via subway. Plus you get to see out the windows!


The Lighter Side

9 10 2008

And now some photos from my field trips because 5 year olds are my new favorite people, and there is so much to be happy about.

Ruminations on Life and Death Abroad

8 10 2008

Is it wrong that I breathe a little easier knowing that my worst fear has already been realized? To lose a family member while abroad has been one of the worst experiences I could have imagined, between a school director who just didn’t understand, to the expense of a next-day flight to America, and finally to the actual reality of a debilitating change to life as I had known it for years.

Life abroad has been everything I ever wanted. Over the course of my university years it became clear to me I was not a shoe made for just one city, but one more fit to wander, sometimes without direction, until, well… until I get sick of it. I feel content in my unusual usual routine, in a job I would not have imagined myself in, much less loving, as little as six months ago. I am happy doing all the normal little things that a day to day routine would have, only in a different place. I use another language to thank the barista for my coffee, use colored money that my family refers to as my “Monopoly money” for every exchange. In my hometown, home state, home country I feel like I’m missing out on something. Maybe someday I’ll realize that life is life, no matter where you hang your hat, but until then, I will try to make my way to every possible corner of the earth.

My grandma was one of the only people in my life that understood all that. She wanted bigger and better things for herself, and even bigger and even better things for me. Near the end she would have preferred me to take a job in Chicago, to be close to the family, but she knew that just wasn’t my style. I’m minus my other half, the person I was most like in this world. I felt guilty knowing she was sick while I was wandering, but I knew she wouldn’t want me to stop. I always made sure to take lots of photos and send emails back to her so that she could tell all of her friends and neighbors.

Going back to the States for the funeral was a necessary step so that I could see just how much my life has changed without its foundation. I still don’t think that I can truly honor the memories and the emotions in such a short and unfocused post, so I’ll just keep on living to make her proud. She will be missed dearly, but remembered in every step that I take.


7 10 2008

I’m struggling with writing the words to describe this past week. I have multiple drafts, but nothing seems to convey exactly how I was feeling. Let me leave it at this: I had a major family emergency situation, I had to run to the States (and that’s no quick run from Korea) and I don’t know how to honor it. I’ll continue my dabbling on drafts and let you know how that goes. In the meantime, I’m so happy to be back and my students are making the time much easier for me with their sweet and kind words and billions of hugs everyday! I knew there had to be something special to this teaching thing….