(All names are replaced to alias for the sake of their privacy)
There is one good aspect of current depression. Thanks to the bad economy and job market, I get to see many of my college friends in South Korea. Of course I never expected this to happen at the time of my graduation – I was too sad that I have to leave USA and lose the life once I had (TCKs can related to me, no?). Recently I re-connected with Joe, a fellow alum of mine. We were never really “friends” in college. He was a friend of my now-strained friend and I met Joe only twice. He is the man of “legend” – his GPA was 4.0 out of 4.0 for four straight years. Yes, you read it correctly. Of course he went to one of the best law school after his college graduation. Then I did not get to hear about him – my friend became a part of history and Joe’s major was different from mine. After all, I wasn’t really interested anyway.
Now that I have been job searching in this depressing economy, the option for law school is certainly looming into reality much more vividly than before. Fortunately I have connection with some lawyers with international background, and I’ve been asking them questions and such for more concrete planning. After experiencing my post-college job plan failing (the potential employer, who was willing to sponsor my working visa, canceled everything at the last-minute), I care more about post-grad school than the grad school’s reputation. Like I said before, I want to be away from Korea or big group of mono-Koreans after my higher degree. While the information from lawyers are helpful, I also wanted to be advised from someone with more “fresh” experience of law school and the field. Then Joe came across my mind.
I logged on to alumni directory website to find him. But I did not know his last name, year of graduation and major. So I asked my now-strained friend’s mom (her family and our family are still friends). To my surprise she had no idea. After many tries, I thought this is a sign and there’s no other choice than giving up.
Next day I logged on internet to find a bit more information about LSAT. Among the search result, there was several news articles. On one of those article, there was a picture of someone and that someone looked pretty familiar. So I clicked it. And….(Drumroll please) it was Joe. That Joe whom I’ve been looking up for forever. To my surprise he has been teaching in one of the best college in Korea for 8 months. A Korean proverb goes, “the darkest part of room is right below of the lamp.” Surely that is my case. I went to the school’s website, got his e-mail address and sent him an e-mail. So we agreed to meet on Sunday.
Well, there he was – still wearing like a college kid than “law school faculty.” We had a good time, but I was pretty surprised to see how much he changed in terms of personality.
I met him for the second time in Seoul (when we were still in college). That was my friend’s birthday and all these Korean kids called us up for celebrating her birthday…or, actually, use it as an excuse to drink the shit out. I did not drink until I was 21 – I was there but did not drink. Joe was there too. Like most of Korean cluster, no one was talking to this “random white guy who clearly does not belong to our circle” and he was just sitting at the corner. As someone who spent most of life in town that is white as snow, I felt bad for him. So I decided to go ahead and talk to him. Well, it was grand failure. Clearly he does not know how to carry a good conversation. Having a conversation is like playing a ping-pong. You serve the ball and he/she should send it back. I was serving the ball, but Joe was just saying “haha, right” and not sending any of my balls back to me. That was one of the most frustrating moment of my life. In summary, while I did acknowledge he is a good lad, he was socially inept.
So I was expecting pretty much same thing. Lots of silent moments and awkwardness.
To my surprise, he was so very talkative. Almost like someone has implanted a Ferrari engine on his mouth. I like conversation but, boy. It was so intense! For example, there is right moment for you to say something like “well, let’s get going” – when the raw material for conversation is running out, there is a short moment of silence and this is what you say at that moment. I was deliberately waiting for this moment but there was none. As we were walking, I expected some moment of silence (so I can relax a bit). No, he was just non-stop talking. If I was not talking, he would ask something – “so what did you do on your last job?” “wanna drop by the cafe? (for 2nd time)” I was completely exhausted at the end of our day – I actually texted my mom, who was visiting my aunt at the area, for a help. As I arrive my aunt’s house, my aunt said “you look really tired but as you step inside my home, your face was so happy.” oops.
I did have a good time hanging out with him, and it is always a pleasure to spend time with expats here – not to mention ND alum! But it was tiring. And suprising. So this very same guy, who sucked at carrying a good conversation, is uver-talkative after 4-5 years. As I “report” the meeting to my mom, aunt and Annabel, they all said: he was hungry for decent conversation. In English.
Oooh…..now I get it.
It’s not easy to live on your own in foreign country where the culture and language is drastically different. When I was a high school student, there is a time where I spent the entire week without a good conversation. On weekend, a clerk at local Express store said something nice – more than “your total is xx.xx” and “receipt in the bag?” I think it was something about me. It was really nothing, but I almost teared up (of course I did not burst out of tears at the Express store…no I would not). At my college freshman year, I was really depressed. It was like I am carrying a dark cloud over my head when everyone else is just so happy to be in college. By then I was very used to passing my birthday just like another day. All of sudden my friend visited my room with a piece of big brownie, singing happy birthday. I still thank her and for sure I am not going to forget it until I die.
It is kinda funny that now I and they are in completely different position. Now I’m in my home culture (technically) with family and I speak the language fluently. But now my friends are in random alien country, away from family and lack the language skill. I guess my experience starts to shine at the end.
Life does take strange turns.