“…I know what a boy is, which is to say, either a fool or an imprisoned man striving to get out.” –Robertson Davies, Fifth Business
Reading this the other day I, being an old mythologizer, couldn’t help trying to apply it to my own life, thinking that the imprisoned man inside must be freed throughout his life, constantly becoming imprisoned by a man-child who likes the comfort of routine. Though routine certainly has its place, situations have come upon me in the past or I have made choices that challenged a previously accepted way of life or self-perception. And it seems there is a cycle: Just when I think I have everything figured out, it becomes time to move, change jobs or make some other important adjustment. Also, the people in my life have challenged me constructively or torn down my self-perception by reminding me of and magnifying my past failures. And one might think, "Well, fuck, Nick. You’re thirty years old. Get it together." Perhaps that’s a good to keep in mind, a mantra, if you will. In essence, though, I believe this: when the cycles of regeneration cease, the questions of Self have ceased. That whole Socrates “unexamined life is not worth living” thing.
When I look at certain aspects of my life, I find I am still a fool, still the archetypal boy imprisoning the man inside. These realizations come upon me in situations that challenge my set routine, at times like this (changing jobs, moving). I must make clear that the acute isolation I felt last week may have given the wrong impression of my time here in Korea. While I was indeed feeling lonely, I have yet again realized my responsibility to my Self, that another cycle is beginning and I must embrace it; I must be careful to balance this with maintaining relationships with friends and family. Change, though often difficult or painful initially, has always produced some good in my life, no matter how slowly I adjust to it or how I may go kicking and screaming.
So the question now: What can I learn now?
By the time last Thursday rolled around, I had become better friends with DuBu, that crazy cat getting used to my company and I getting used to her habits and psychotic behavior. When getting home, play with cat for she has been alone all day; if you don’t she’s liable to attack. When playing, expect injury by claw or tooth for she is unable to decipher the difference between play and hostility. When opening a can of tuna, expect cat will not leave you alone until you have shared; there’s no question that you will even if you don’t want to for she will follow you, whining until she gets what she wants. When sitting on the couch using the computer, keep writing but do not move since she has decided your thigh is finally worthy of reclining against. When all else fails, put her in Murphy’s room and close the door for a timeout.
I got out for the fourth day of excursion and went to Beomeosa Temple, taking the one line to the Beomeosa stop in northern Busan to that largest temple in the area. Took some good pictures, but the overall experience paled in comparison to Gyeongju in size (two hours north by slow train), Haedong Younggungsa (last stop on line two and then a cab ride to the shore) in splendor and Sunamsa (up the hill from Gegeum) in simplicity. Nonetheless, if you want a vigorous hike on well-maintained trails, continue past the temple up to the North Gate of defenses built against Chinese and Japanese invasion in the 1700s. One must, though, imagine what was inside these 17 plus square kilometers since the Japanese occupation of 1910-1945 saw the destruction of most of it. At the North Gate, there was a peak I was tempted to hike and catch the sunset.
Alas, Geumjeongsan and its summit of 801 meters were unattainable, my previous three days of hiking catching up with me. By far the best part of the day was reclining on a rock in the semi-warm sun and silence beneath the still-barren branches of the trees. After that, I hiked down, found some sustenance of oh-dang (reconstituted fish on a stick) and a bottle of water sold off the back of a truck parked on the roadside. Then, I came upon the backwoods village of Sanseong that seemed to have a number of restaurants and motels amongst its dilapidated housing and abundance of wood-smoke. I hopped a bus around dusk, ready to go home and shower and eat a full meal.
The next day’s hike was foregone, my need to rest the bones superseding my desire to go to the mouth of the Nakgongdang River and its bird estuary. Busan is a wonderful city with much to do. With good planning and stamina, much of it can be seen in four or five days. I will go back there again with plans to see that estuary and other sites it has to offer.
A couple evenings of more farewell activities were had in a pub crawl on Friday night with the boys in Danggam-dong and Buam-dong, a short way up the hill from Gegeum. Had dinner with Paul on Saturday and pitching contest at a recently torn down batting cage in Seomyeon. Met up with a few more of the fellas and went to a dong-dong ju cave for some of that milky-white Korean rice-based wine and pajeon (vegetable pancake with assorted meats or fish).
Goodbye Busan. Said my goodbyes to the boys, toted my belongings to the train station and hopped a train to Seoul. Janine met me, we got some food and now here I stay at Jenie’s, taking care of odds and ends. There is a new little friend here, a dog named Sarang who is no bigger than half a football. She is a tiny little thing that I will try not to crush. She sleeps most of the time, waiting by the door for Jenie to come home.
Thursday and Friday will find me in Japan for the visa run.