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Suwon R & R

May 21, 2010

Cabin fever finally struck this month, leaving me not simply bored but predisposed to believe that this boredom was a constitutional inevitability, that I was forever condemned to the lackluster puttering-on of daily life, and I was, in short, never to be happy again. Those slices of daily life one relies on even became an anathema to me – the persistent and demanding “Hi!”s of the students, the little jokes I would make in class to wake the kids up, the earnest but halting conversations my students and/or teachers try to start – and I was afraid that my boredom would cause students to become less enthusiastic and ready to learn English than they already were.

So, I did what many of us moral pragmatists would do and got sick. I was horrifically sick for 5 minutes, between 7:30 and 7:35 AM, while I sent my co-teacher texts explaining this sickness was so extreme it left me unable to call her on the phone. I told her it was fever, which, though a prevarication, was hardly an outright lie. I do, after all, have cabin fever, don’t I? (yes, ever the student of rhetoric, I am, especially when it comes to self-justification).

Sick leave secured, it was time for my rest and relaxation. The only rule I set for myself on an R & R day is that the ‘rest’ cannot include actual sleep. I sleep enough as it is. I don’t hop on a subway and get the hell out of this city enough. Suwon was my destination – Suwon was that most holy of day trip pilgrimage sites, a city only 45 minutes away but far enough to be unarguably removed from Seoul, with a must-see attraction combining hiking and history: Hwaseong Fortress.

I once heard a quote that half the fun of traveling is getting there. I am sympathetic to the quote’s spirit if not necessarily its accuracy; it was roughly 34% the fun for me when I went. Half of this was expectation and half of this was realizing I could actually find my way to Suwon and from there to the Paldalmun, the main southern gate of the fortress. For Suwon seemed like some confusing, alien land after being cloistered up in Seoul so long. Until… “Oh, I can use my T-Money card here!”

And thus the world became flat once again. Yet still wide-eyed and exhilarated by its slightly different permutation of the same ubiquitous chain establishments – Baskin Robbins, Cafe Bene, KFC, Miller Time – I wandered out into the Suwon wilderness, looking for a Dalk Galbi lunch, my hand on my Moon Guide and my mind on the historical depths I would soon plumb along the mist-shrouded walls of Hwaseong Fortress.


This post was originally published at Painting the Passports Brown.

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