Friday, October 12, 2007

Letting Go

I've been writing this for a while and at this moment I kind of hate it, but I can't deal with working on it anymore. I need to get back to studying Chinese... That piece of writing has been causing all sorts of stress lately but more than that, something happened last week that has really been bothering me.

That is... I think I saw a dead body on the sidewalk. I was coming from the bus stop, headed toward my Chinese hakwon, and there were some men standing around on the sidewalk in sort of a strange way. Usually at that time of the morning everyone is in motion. I kept walking, then I saw the body. At first I thought it was one of those homeless handicapped men who crawl along the street on a board with wheels begging for money, but when I looked again I realized that this man was young, not moving, had a gash on his forehead, and wearing converse-like shoes, one of which had fallen off. He was mostly covered, rather hastily I guess, with cardboard boxes, so I couldn't see much of his body, just his feet and the top of his head. I couldn't really process what was going on at the time. A policeman was standing nearby, along with the other men, but all of them were standing back away from the body, not talking much. I kept walking, not really understanding, trying to figure it out as I walked to class. This was on Gangnamdae-ro, a busy street, full of people striding around. Because he was on the sidewalk I'm guessing it was not a traffic accident, and because of the time of day (about 9:30am) I don't think he was injured in a fight. I'm guessing he committed suicide by jumping from one of the tall buildings nearby. On my way back after class he was gone, but the police had painted an outline of the body on the sidewalk which I now walk around twice a day as I go to and from my class. Other people don't even realize it is there, they walk over the rectangle without even knowing it.

I looked at the news, and asked around, but no one seems to know what happened to that man.

Suicides are pretty common here, though, and don't often make the news. I was talking to my old Chinese teacher (who also works on Gangnamdae-ro) and she mentioned that she can remember two suicides just within our apartment complex in the last 10 years, from people jumping from the top of the buildings. And our building isn't all that tall, only 10 stories.

I hear about the high suicide rate but have been insulated from the reality of suicides, until now.


Cat said...

How sad! I am sorry that you had that experience. I once saw the immediate aftermath of a traffic accident where a bus had hit a man on a motorcycle. It also did not look as if the motorcycle driver survived. The image of the bus driver and other people just sort of standing around waiting, with the guy lying motionless on the pavement stayed with me a long time.

In this case, I almost wondered if the guy had been in a fight, like you thought. It seems strange, to me, that the police would have covered his body with boxes, but maybe not.

Nicki said...

It is hard not to be moved by witnessing the end (or beginning) of a life. Did you hear about this blogger for the LA Times? I was strangely fascinated by this story:

Melissa said...

Ach, that's so sad, and so hard to see.

Last year, just before I left my last job, one of our students killed herself by jumping off the library, and at my job before that, a (highschool) student - the daughter of one of my workmates -killed herself by jumping from her apartment building. I say this because those two situations were (and are) awful ... but ... well, I didn't see eiher of those bodies.

I think the reality of death (perhaps *especially* suicide?) is much more horrible when we have to view the physical evidence of it.

Anyway, I'm sorry.


Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert said...

Hi Jennifer,

I am looking for bilingual families for mini case-studies for a new book on Siblings & Bilingualism. I read about you in the Multilingual Living online magazine. Your family is fascinating!

You can read about my project at my blog:

or email me:

Thanks,hope to hear from you soon..

Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert