Ever since I knew I was going to return to Seoul as a tourist, I felt a strange anxiety. On one hand, I was excited to see my friends again and feast on the delicious food, but on the other, I was worried that this visit would shatter the embellished image of Korea I had formed in my head over the past few years. Since I left Korea, I always reminded myself of the good times I had (never the bad times) and I always kept the option of going back as a backup, however unlikely. I knew that if I couldn’t find work and a place to study, I could go back to Korea, be able to find a job, be able to travel, and be able to save money. I don’t know if I would have actually gone through with it, but that thought helped me at times.
Now that I’m back, I realise that I wouldn’t enjoy coming back, at least not to teach English as I had done before. Sure, I still love the food and the chaos, but Korea isn’t the same as when I left it. My friends are mostly gone, I’m a different person, and the people here have changed. It may seem over dramatic to say that after only 3 years away, but anyone who has been here knows that Korea changes at an absurd rate. Things are different now. My friend with whom I’m staying, one of the biggest partiers I know and the first Korean friend I made, doesn’t go out anymore. He works 12 hours per day, has a girlfriend and relaxes at home when he’s not working. We went to Hongdae (a trendy club area) together when I got in on Saturday and we hardly recognized the place. Sure, the bars were mostly the same, but the crowd had changed. One of the bars I went to on one of my first weekends out to Seoul is now “Korean Only”. Places change just as people do, I guess. We ended up waking around the area with a few beer from a corner store, looking at the people and talking about the how things are different.
I’m about to go visit my old school. I’m looking forward to seeing my old boss and coworkers. I hope we will all be able to go out for supper and drinks tonight, I hope at least some things stay the same. There is apparently a new foreign English teacher at the school. I’m excited to meet him or her, but because I’m so vain, I’m a bit worried he or she is cooler and better liked by the teachers and student than me. I will soon find out.
Yesterday, I got to meet with an old friend from my neighbourhood for the afternoon. He, my friend who I’m staying with and I walked for the afternoon. I never really took time to walk around Seoul. It’s an interesting city with so many hidden streets and corners, and while it’s super easy to get lost in the labyrinth of streets, you get to see a side of the city that you don’t se by sticking to the subway. I woke up at 5am this morning and walked around my friend’s neighbourhood. There’s a certain life to the streets that you don’t get in Montreal, even in the early morning. That energy is one of the things that I miss most about here.