Thursday, May 20: Buddha’s birthday was cause for celebration in teaching circles as we got our first official holiday from school!!  I took advantage of the three-day weekend by traveling to Seoul for the first time… all alone.  It was the first time I’ve traveled alone in Korea…in fact I think it was the first time I ever traveled alone period.  And I found it incredibly depressing.  During the dreary weekend, I decided definitively to stop calling Ahmed, and though the decision took a huge burden off of me, it also felt hauntingly lonely.  Frankly, it ruined Seoul for me.

In essence, Buddha deserted me.  On his birthday, no less.  Funny, back in April I had hiked up the mountain to make a wish to Gatbawi, the Buddha with the flat hat.  I don’t see any harm in telling my wish, because now it certainly will never come true.  I wished wholeheartedly (apparently wholeheartedness is required if Gatbawi is to grant your wish) that Ahmed S would be lovingly with me for my life.  That was the way I worded it.  I wanted him to be with me, though not to necessarily marry me, and to love me, as long as I was alive.

I had spent an amazing 4 days with Ahmed in Egypt on my way to Korea.  But when I arrived in Korea, I posted the pictures I had taken of us in Egypt on Facebook.

Ahmed and me in Cairo - February 2010

Ahmed and me in Cairo – February 2010

Right away, I discovered he had hidden them on his page.  I went ballistic on him, accusing him of having ulterior motives with me… I accused him of trying to get citizenship to the US,  or wanting me for some reason other than that he liked me.  He didn’t really have an answer for me as to why he hid the pictures, but instead was furious that I doubted him and said I would never understand that by questioning him, his pride was at stake.  He said I could never just believe that he liked me from the beginning.  And then he told me he needed some space from me and he would talk to me at some unknown future date.

I suffered a lot in March over this.  I liked Ahmed immensely and believed him to be a good man.  I foolishly continued to call him about once a week, just to touch base, while also giving him the space he asked for.  Meanwhile he was taking a series of exams for his Master’s degree and said we would start talking regularly after the exams were over in mid-April.   I talked to him once a week by phone and finally, after giving it much alleged thought, he said he DID want me in my life.  He just wanted me to give him time to finish his exams.

So I continued this agony of calling him once a week through April, when his exams were over.  It was difficult to reach him as he works every day except Friday in the hospital and clinic from 8 am to 11 pm.  Between the time difference and the fact that when I called he was often with patients, he wouldn’t answer many times.  This caused me incredible anxiety, because when I called I feared he would never answer me and in fact never talk to me again.

Finally, on Thursday night, May 20, before I was to leave for Seoul Friday morning, I spoke to Ahmed by phone and had a nice conversation.  He said he was excited about my upcoming trip to Cairo, for which I had already bought my plane tickets.  I told him I was going to Seoul and he said, oh, so we won’t be able to talk on my day off – Friday?  I said, well, I suppose I could get online but since I’ll be in a hotel, I’ll have to go to an internet cafe.  So if I get online, you really need to be there at 5:00 your time.  He said, well, call me first and I’ll tell you if I can get online.  Then we can chat.

Friday, May 21: So, on Friday, I took the 4-hour train to Seoul.  I arrived and checked into my hotel, then took off to visit the palaces.  I first went to the most famous palace, Gyeongbok-Gung, the Palace of Shining Happiness, built in 1394.  The palace was really disappointing to me; it wasn’t really interesting and seemed in a sad state.  It was also incredibly hot and I felt really alone.  There was a nice pond and some gardens that offered some respite, but overall, I was not impressed.

Gyeongbok-Gung Palace

Gyeongbok-Gung Palace

Pavilion at Gyeongbok-Gung

Pavilion at Gyeongbok-Gung

Pond at Gyeongbok-Gung

Pond at Gyeongbok-Gung

A pretty garden at Gyeongbok-Gung

A pretty garden at Gyeongbok-Gung

Garden and arbor at Gyeongbok-Gung

Garden and arbor at Gyeongbok-Gung

Arboretum at Gyeongbok-Gung

Arboretum at Gyeongbok-Gung

Pond at Gyeongbok-Gung

Pond at Gyeongbok-Gung

Next I went to Changgyeong-Gung Palace (Palace of Bright Rejoicing), originally built as a summer palace by Goryeo Dynasty King Sukjong in 1104.  Again, I found this disappointing, except for one lovely pond with a pavilion.  Everywhere I looked I saw couples and happy families.  I wanted to have a few pictures of myself taken at some spots, but I couldn’t find people who seemed open to taking one for me.  I was hot and alone and tired.

Changgyeong-Gung

Changgyeong-Gung

Changgyeong-Gung

Changgyeong-Gung

Changgyeong-Gung

Changgyeong-Gung

Changgyeong-Gung

Changgyeong-Gung

Pavilion at Changgyeong-Gung

Pavilion at Changgyeong-Gung

Pond and pavilion at Changgyeong-Gung

Pond and pavilion at Changgyeong-Gung

Changgyeong-Gung

Changgyeong-Gung

Lonely me at Changgyeong-Gung Palace in Seoul

Lonely me at Changgyeong-Gung Palace in Seoul

I sat in a little restaurant and had a pomegranate juice and watched all the people.  Everyone was with someone else; it seemed I was the only one alone in the world.  I felt anxious about having to get online to meet Ahmed, because I had a feeling that once again he would let me down.  I wished I had told him I would just talk to him when I returned home to Daegu, instead of having it hanging over my head to try to meet him online and then have him not show up.

Anyway, after wandering about the palace for a while longer, I finally made my way to the National Folk Museum of Korea.  There I found on the grounds some cool statues that I photographed.  I enjoyed this place most of all because I found the statues really cool.  The grounds were lovely and shaded.  I went into the actual museum only to promptly turn around and walk out because it wasn’t air-conditioned.

National Folk Museum of Korea

National Folk Museum of Korea

National Folk Museum of Korea

National Folk Museum of Korea

me at the National Folk Museum of Korea

me at the National Folk Museum of Korea

National Folk Museum of Korea

National Folk Museum of Korea

National Folk Museum of Korea

National Folk Museum of Korea

After leaving the Folk Museum, I headed to Seoul Tower to try to see the view of Seoul. On the way to the Tower, I happened upon the Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition.

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Ganghwamun Lantern Exhibition

Lanterns from the previous weekend's lantern festival

Lanterns from the previous weekend’s lantern festival

When I finally arrived at Seoul Tower, the line to the cable car was two hours long!!  Instead, I went to a pasta restaurant and had a horrible pasta dish with chewy hunks of clams and some strange mushrooms.

I went to my hotel after dinner, got comfy and watched TV for a while, waiting till 11 pm when I would try to call Ahmed.  I felt so anxious and wished I hadn’t told him I would talk to him.  Sure enough, when 11 rolled around, I called and he didn’t pick up.  I called again two more times and no answer.  Finally, furious at him for making a plan to meet me online and then not showing up for the appointment, I quit calling and went to sleep.

Saturday, May 22:  The next day I spent shopping.  I went first to Itaewon which is supposed to be geared to American soldiers and foreigners.  I didn’t find anything of interest there.  I went next to Insa-Dong and found nothing there.  Finally, I went to Dongdae-Mun Market, the largest general market in the country.  I have never seen so much ugly stuff in my entire life!  I finally found a decent department store, but when I saw several things I liked, the salespeople refused to let me try them on.  In one case, I really wanted to try on a cute green shirt.  I asked to try it on and the saleswoman vehemently refused.  By then I was sick of this attitude and I said, “Why?  How do you expect me to buy something without trying it on?”  She said, “My English not good.” And she grabbed the shirt away from me and put it back on the rack.  I went over to the rack and started to unbutton the shirt to try it on over my shirt.  She came over an grabbed it away from me.  I said again, Why can’t I try it on?  Why?  I can’t buy something without trying it!!”  She said again, no English!  I said, You know what?  You’re a BITCH!  Do you understand THAT English word?  She clearly did, as her face registered extreme shock!

Later that night, I tried to call Ahmed again.  He had given me a general rule that if I called while he was at work, if he didn’t answer it meant he was with a patient and I should try back in a half hour.  I did this 4 times and he never picked up!  I never have understood why he could never just pick up the phone and tell me he couldn’t talk and I should call him back at such-and-such a time.  After these four attempts, I gave up and felt a relief that I’d decided not to call anymore that night.  It came to my mind then that in order to erase all such anxiety from my life, I should just stop calling him altogether.  He had never contacted me once since I arrived in Korea; it was always me doing the contacting.  Before I met him, he had made all the contacts online.  But after, it was always me.

Sunday, May 23:  As Sunday came, I slowly resolved never to call Ahmed again.  I knew with absolute certainty that if I stopped calling him, he would never contact me.  I FINALLY understood, deep in my heart, that he didn’t care for me at all.  I could no longer continue to deceive myself about this.  And deceiving myself all this time is exactly what I had been doing.

I checked out of the hotel and went in the rain to the Han River to take a cruise.  It was such a dreary day, and though I felt a sense of relief that I’d made this decision about Ahmed, I also felt incredibly sad.  I knew he didn’t care for me, and that hurt pervaded all my being.  The clouds and the rain during the Han River cruise only echoed my deepest feelings of loneliness.

The park by the Han River

The park by the Han River

Park by the Han River

Park by the Han River

Gardens near the Han River

Gardens near the Han River

Han River

Han River

Cruise boat down the Han River

Cruise boat down the Han River

Han River views

Han River views

Han River views

Han River views

Lonely on the Han River

Lonely on the Han River

During the cruise, an older Tunisian man with extremely bad teeth made sad attempts to flirt with me.  I thought, this is what it’s come to.  I can only attract men now who are old and have bad teeth.  I felt even more depressed at this sad state of affairs.

Han River views

Han River views

Han River views

Han River views

I left the cruise and went to see Jogye-Sa Temple, the only major temple right in the heart of Seoul.  Neither ancient or historic, it’s the HQ of the Jogye sect of Korean Buddhism.  The main hall is one of the largest temple halls in Seoul and it has beautiful carved lattice-work designs on the front doors.  Inside, set on a pedestal and seated on a cushion, a large gilt image of the Seokgamoni Buddha is flanked by two other statues.  A 7-tier stone pagoda sits in the courtyard, supposedly housing relics of the historical Buddha brought here by a Sri Lankan monk in 1914.

Entrance to Jogye-Sa Temple

Entrance to Jogye-Sa Temple

Jogye-Sa Temple

Jogye-Sa Temple

Jogye-Sa Temple

Jogye-Sa Temple

Colorful Jogye-Sa Temple

Colorful Jogye-Sa Temple

Carved door at Jogye-Sa Temple

Carved door at Jogye-Sa Temple

Buddhas at Jogye-Sa Temple

Buddhas at Jogye-Sa Temple

The Buddha at Jogye-Sa: He deserted me:-(

The Buddha at Jogye-Sa: He deserted me:-(

I rushed from the Temple to Seoul station and caught the slow train back to Daegu.  I felt absolutely certain I would never call Ahmed again.  I had mixed feelings, including relief at finally being able to rid myself of all the anxiety I had felt over him for 3 months.  I felt bitter that I had let him ruin my first 3 months here in Korea, an especially difficult time anyway.  But I also felt sad that what I felt for him was all in vain.  I felt that all the love I’d been sending his way all these months had just evaporated into cyber-space.  Plainly, I felt alone and wondering about where I belong in this world.

Later in the week, I removed his number from my phone.  I took the tags off of the pictures from Egypt so that my photos would no longer appear on his page.  Then I deleted him from Facebook, from Skype, and from Yahoo messenger.

 

Thursday, May 27:  I wrote Ahmed a final email:  In the subject line, I wrote: Now I know…

I’m sorry Ahmed.  I just can’t bear to make one more phone call to you and have you not pick up.  I was in love with you….I was from the beginning and still am.  But it has become so obvious to me that you don’t care about me.   Since I’ve come to Korea, you have made absolutely no effort with me.  Your actions speak louder than all the words you can ever say. 
 
I am hurt beyond what I can say.  But I can no longer deceive myself that you care anything for me.  I just wish you had told me this directly instead of just avoiding me when I called and making absolutely no effort whatsoever.  I don’t know what I ever did to deserve this kind of treatment from you.  I have always been kind and giving to you and all I ever did wrong was to love you.
 
Anyway, I will miss you.  Take care,
Cathy

DONE!  I’ve erased him from my life.  Now how do I get him out of my memory?  Only time, I fear will help….

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