Here we are finally at the point, everything as usual: miserable progress on the Sunday crossword, cup of coffee gone cold, Law and Order SVU reruns for white noise, when abject terror sets in. Terror of being the least prepared future English teacher ever to set foot in the Republic of Korea, ever. I could weep. Or vomit.
I wore a blister on my elbow yesterday at a bar, maybe bars. At the first, our Polish waitress told a guy who asked “How’s the little one?” that she’d had a miscarriage; he then went to the bathroom. It might have been over those Blue Moons or maybe it was later, listening to hipsters sing karaoke to 80’s songs, either way I guess I never learned to keep my elbows off the table.
In Kolkata, Kris, the German pharmacist from the Loreto school who had been a year in India warned against the perils of missing things. Of missing even cheesecake or Blue Moon. You shouldn’t miss home when you travel because what you miss becomes a full-body one-way membrane. Only what India lacks, what Korea lacks, leaks out of you. And insulated by such a membrane, you miss, in an entirely different sense, everything new.
Kris got us stuck in the elevator on the way to dinner, encouraging nine people to take a car designed, apparently, for four. He called out friend–“bondhu!”–to the Indians at the hotel who were much more alarmed by the situation than we were and they got us out before spirits flagged. He said that in Germany when you find mushrooms in the woods you take them to the local pharmacist who will tell you what kind they are. I suppose this is what he could look forward to when he went home. I said that our pharmacists don’t do such things and he wanted to know where did we take our mushrooms? That we buy them in cans at the grocery store seemed not entirely to surprise him and this is probably, somehow, an apt metaphor for the new and old worlds.