I had all sorts of plans for today's post. I had a recap going on my "blog persona." I had thoughts on being American for 9/11. I was working on something about cleanliness.
I was walking along, thinking about an article on Susan Sontag’s journals that I had read this morning, and about Diane Middlebrook’s excellent book on Plath and Ted Hughes, and thinking of the “self” that one constructs through a journal or blog. Even though I started this blog without a clear sense of what I would write (hence the changing titles), using it more as a receptacle for ideas which were neither developed nor edited enough to become articles, I have been, in a sense, creating my “blog persona” -- a long-winded character, simultaneously insider and outsider in both the U.S. and Korea, always a parent, attempting to be funny. (In real life I am not funny.)
But then I got run over by a car.
More specifically, I was walking on the edge of a typical narrow street , a maze of pedestrians, cars parked haphazardly, construction, and cars going opposite directions slowly trying to pass each other. I was edging my way around a parked car while cars were coming from both directions, and the ajuma driving the car on my side of the road was only watching the other car and didn't notice that there was a person standing in front of her. So she casually ran over my feet and trapped me between her car and the parked car while I screamed HEEEYYYYY ARGHHHHHHHH.
From now on I will think about my usual walking subjects: how to fund my next latte fix and what I will do if I have to give it up again to have another baby and whether it is crazy to think about having THREE kids and if I will ever be able to have a career with so many children afoot.
Anyway. Feet are amazing things, remarkably able to handle being rolled over by a 2,000 pound car. Either than or I am endowed with some heroic indestructable power that I am not aware of (have never broken a bone... never know...) So I am perfectly fine. I yelled at her for a while and continued on my way.
What I had been planning to write about, before being mashed, was what the heck this blog is all about. After four months, I think it might be about “parenting and living in Seoul.” In the beginning I was trying to write about life in Seoul but so much of my life is my parenting, and I purposely would balance the posts to have some of both. But looking back I realize that almost all the posts have something of both in them. I am first and foremost a mom, my kids structure my day (and night), my children are always riding around with me in my head (strange Zeus/Athena image there) and color the way I see the world. No Hephestus around to split my head and get the kids out. So this is a blog about living here in Seoul but living is inseparable from parenting.
Perhaps it is the back-to-school smell of fall in the air, but I was feeling a hankering to look back at what I have written and take stock.
Some posts are just snapshots of a moment or impression: Stop and smell the ramen, Go reds, and Time warp. Some are sort of meta-blog posts -- posts on the blog (including this one): Surprise, surprise, Thanks, and Delusions of grandeur.
Some posts are truely just about my kids or family: Stories to embarrass Aiden, KCisms, Penis Envy, and Whack-a-mole.
But most of the posts are on the meatier subject of living in Korea.
now. I feel like, in a sense, living here is learning a new set of grammers. In body language and on boys I talked about the sort of grammer of physical and emotional expression. Walking in Seoul and to some extent Independence Day and the Good Life were all about the battle between living in the moment and seeing things in the more spontaneous way that kids do, and living in our quick, well planned adult jaded eyes (a little like being hit by a car while thinking about your blog).
Self-monitoring and ex-pat stories were about the kind of sensibility that develops when you are an ex-pat.
playground politics and fear and to some extent self-monitoring, are more directly about the different sense of boundaries here and how that manifests in what you say and fear.
Flashes of anger and Our Daily Rice have more of a generational sense to them, I think -- more of a feel of what it is like to be taken into a family and the expectations and negotiations that go with that.
So I was going to be really eloquent and write something about that, but now I feel like I need to say something about driving.
Many smarter and more eloquent people have talked about how driving and the invention of fast travel (via airplane, train, or car) have changed notions of time and space. But driving in Seoul is a further distortion of time and space. Hey! Maybe those looking for black holes and wormholes and anti-matter should look here! The existance of distortions in the space-time continuum would explain how deliverymen can travel faster than the speed of light and why one ages so quickly on KangNamDaeRo.
Seoul's traffic as improved a lot since I was first here. Now people actually seem to pay attention to those lines painted on the road, or at least take them as a suggestion. Now people usually follow the traffic lights. And the addition of many traffic cameras have cut down on speeding and other excesses.
But on the road, it's a whole new ball game. Although the number of lanes painted now more or less corresponds to the number of lines of cars on the road, there is a lot of switching back and forth in the name of efficiency. If there isn't room to switch, you force your way in. Centuries of repression and kowtowing to elders has resulted in alternative hierarchy of ruthlessness on the roadway. Forget the old farts, this is the law of the jungle. Now look out, we're coming to an intersection. Just like the real estate laws and the policy on North Korea, LOOK OUT! the lanes on the other side of the intersection don't line up. It's a free for all!
And parking. PARKING! Someone should write a dissertation on the social construction of parking. Because here, it literally is socially constructed! As in: you pick a blank spot of real estate, and you park there. It happens to be on the sidewalk? No problem. Oh, it's in a no parking zone, you say? Who cares, park there anyway. So it disrupts the flow of traffic. That's ok, just think about yourself. So what if the street is not wide enough for two cars to pass now, they other cars will work it out. And parking lots... see my post of Parking/Engineering.
But after a year or so living here I got my driver's license and cautiously, nervously took to the roads. Now I, too, join the pissing contest that is driving in Seoul. I bully my way into my lanes, I honk and yell, I expect people to cut me off, I expect sudden stopping, cars randomly parked in the road, people running red lights, bus drivers trying out for a part in Speed 3.
All the people privy to the system can function fine within in. The problem is that not everyone has the crackerjack timing and the delicate sense of space to function like this. I haven't had any bad incidents other than a scratched bumper, but it takes all my concentration, the partnership of a good book on CD for the kids, and a good dose of courage from caffeine, and I hit the road. But driving here has subtly shifted my sense of the driving space and the flow of driving time.
When I return to the U.S. I'm a nervous, hesistant driver. I want to push my way in, but have to force myself to hold back -- too much -- to the point that I become a bad driver again. I don't have a sense of the appropriate window of time or space that I need to leave before moving in.
There is a kind of grammer to driving, or if you prefer, a sense of decorum and etiquette. You develop this sense through practice, but some people never get it. And it's a delicate sense, easily thrown by mood or lack of confidence or a competing sense of decorum.
Don't need someone to run over my foot to tell me that.